Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mike's EXCELLENT Adventure In Margaritaville

Over the weekend, the Goodwife and I took a short, real fast sea cruise as sort of a early Christmas present to ourselves. We only had two ports of calls, Key West and Cozumel, Mexico. Well, as anyone who knows me can tell you, nothing EVER goes as planned when I am involved, so this is the story of the trip.

We flew out of our local airport and got to Miami where we caught a shuttle to Port Everglades where we caught our ship. We set sail at around 5 P.M. After steaming all night we were to dock at Key West at 8 AM the next day. We had a good meal, a few drinks and a comfortable bed, so all was right with the world. However, at 2 AM when I got up to respond to the call of nature, came the first clue that this trip like so many others, would be twisted by my presence…..

Cutting on the light I discovered that the bathroom floor was covered by various “things” I couldn’t, (or wouldn’t) venture a guess as to what they might have been, but they didn’t belong on the floor. I thought that the toilet had overflowed, but on further investigation I discovered that the drain in the floor had backed up. I figured at 2 AM that whatever the problem was, it wasn’t going to be fixable until later in the day, so I warned the good wife, tossed down towels in the floor to limit our exposure to whatever and went back to bed. At 8AM the ship docked, the ship cleanup crew arrived to work on the bathroom and I went ashore. (Goodwife stayed on board) I did a few interesting sites, had a few drinks at the local watering holes, then headed back to the ship since we were told we would be sailing at 2PM for Cozumel. Two came and went, and then Three, then Four and we haven’t moved. At 4:30 the captain announced that the ship was broke and would not be sailing until it was fixed. He announced that we would be spending the night in Key West and that passengers would be allowed to go ashore until 2 AM. So back ashore I went too.

The next day the ship still isn’t fixed, so again I go ashore and spend the day meandering about. They fix the ship that afternoon, and since they couldn’t make it to Cozumel in the time they had left so they decided to sail for Nassau, Bahamas. This didn’t upset me at all since Cozumel isn’t very well known for it’s rum production. Plus the ship provided a shipboard credit to all aboard to make up for the problems.

With all the “problems”, I still had a VERY good time, since I don’t let stuff like that get me all tight. Plus Key West is a very cool place. It has enough historic stuff to keep me interested and it is one of the very best places in the world for people watching. Key West is also the world capital of “whatever” Anything happens, no matter what, everyone just says “whatever” and keeps on keeping on. I captured a bunch of “moments” while meandering and people watching that I would like to share with you if I may……….

The Chickens of Key West.
There are chickens everywhere. The locals tell you that they are the descendants of the fighting cocks brought over by the Cubans that worked in the cigar trade. When cock fighting became illegal, rather than having a gigantic Cuban version of K.F.C. or Chicken and Dumplings, they let them free. Of course, chicken mixed with the other chickens and were fruitful and multiplied so there are chickens all over the place. They do serve a function in that they control the insect population so all is not bad. Key West is also a bird sanctuary and all the chickens, chicks and eggs are protected, so all the tourist are warned not to molest or bother them. As a local put it, “The chickens live here, ya’ll are just visiting” Of course, with all the warnings, there had to be someone who didn’t listen. You just KNEW it had to happen. I will tell you, there is NOTHING quite as funny as watching a Birkenstock wearing “limousine liberal” female running like hell down Duval St. being chased by a highly pissed off hen who did not want anyone messing with one of her chicks.

The Museums of Key West.
There are some pretty good museums in Key West. Pirate Soul is absolutely fantastic with a lot of QUALITY artifacts on display. They had to spend a few bucks on windex after I left, since I had my nose pressed against the glass display cases to eyeball all the goodies on display. You would think that it would be a bit cheesy since it does deal with pirates and it does have a small bit of that kind of thing, but on the whole it is well done and well worth the price of admission. Mel Fisher’s museum is also real good, with it’s display of the salvaged goods from the Nuestra Senora De Atocha, a Spanish treasure galleon that sank in 1622. The treasure trove consisted of silver and gold coins, Bars of the same, jewels and all sorts of odds and ends. They even have it configured in one of the exhibits that you can reach into a case and heft up a gold bar. Just the thing for all us Walter Mitty types out there. A more sobering exhibit is the items brought up from the wreck of the Hennretta Marie. She was a slave ship that went down after striking a reef in the Gulf of Mexico. There are dozens of sets of manacles used on the captives including very small ones used on children.

The Hemingway House and Museum, is good, I haven’t made up my mind about Hemingway as a writer, or as a person, but I enjoyed his restored home and I am very much a cat person. The museum has 60 cats in residence which are descendants of “Papa’s” original cats. They are somewhat inbred and a large number of them have 6 toes on their front paws. The little devils look like they are wearing catcher’s mitts on their front paws and look like they are living the life of Riley. Trust me, they are.

Monuments and Graveyards
There is a monument in a small garden right in front of Mel Fisher’s museum. It is dedicated to the memory of the Union Sailors and Marines who died while stationed on Key West in the Civil War. It is surrounded by a fence which has a small plaque attached to it stating that the monument was erected by a confederate veteran. That should give you the flavor of the types of things you will see. In the old graveyard, it has the graves of sailors from the U.S.S. Maine, Cuban rebels, it even has a tombstone for a local lady carved with the words, “I told you I was sick..” Key West has always been a important naval base, so you can find a bunch of military graves and monuments as well as above ground tombs just like New Orleans since according to the locals the ground is full and you can’t dig a hole without digging a previous occupant up.

Bars and Nightlife
As Fred White said in the movie Tombstone “Ah, that’s the real motherload here” Every one comes to Key West to have a drink in Sloppy Joe’s bar (Hemingway’s favorite) There is also the Green Parrot, The Hog’s Breath, and multiple others. After the first drink, they just HAVE to buy the t-shirts, ball caps, and bumperstickers and so on. Call me crazy, but I can’t see paying anywhere from 15 to 20 bucks so I can wear a advertisement for a bar. Heck, pay me $20.00 to wear the hat; I will keep that sucker on until it rots off. ….I will admit, I did buy a T-shirt and hat from Pirate Soul, but museums are NOT bars….-grin-

Of course, I guess that’s part of the fun, tossing down a few like “Papa” in a place he spent time in. I enjoyed watching the people come and go, the little old ladies and men going into the “adult only” store after having a drink or two, and coming out with packages clasped tightly under their arms, glancing around to see if anyone saw them go in.

If you have never been there before, Key West changes remarkably when the sun sets. It’s as if the day people go home and the night people come out to play. And friend what a freak show it is. –grin- At the most southern point, they have a carnival to entertain the folks there to watch the sun set. One fellow had a bunch of trained house cats that he had jumping through flaming hoops which I thought was cool as all get out. (But I had drank two or three rum drinks before that) It reminded me of the old Ed Sullivan T.V. show. Most of the cruise ships are long gone by the time the sun sets, but since our ship was broke down, I got to see people who maybe came from East Hog’s Knuckle, North Carolina spending time down town and coming back on board the ship with eyes as wide as dinner plates. I suspect they hadn’t seen stuff like that before. –Grin-

After that, Nassau sorta paled in comparison. I got off the ship to get a few bottles of rum to add to my collection, but was ready to head back home.

All in all a good time was had by all


Chris Grimes said...

Messmate, it sounds like you did have a great time even with the challenges of the cruise. Rum, cats, chickens and pirates...what a combination!

Mike W. said...

Ah messmate,

You just don't know....I can't do it justice with my poor writing ability. We should get a expedition together and head down for a week or so. The locals recommended this event.

Our buddy Andrew might even learn to LOVE pirates. -GRIN-

Andrew Duppstadt said...

Don't hold our breath on that....either of you!

Glad you and the Goodwife had a good time. Key West may be the only place in Florida I would actually want to visit. And I have friends in the Tampa area, but I see them when they come back to NC.

Mike W. said...


Check this out, Cats o' plenty!