Our Nation's Treasures

My Photo
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Key West is Cool

People born on Key West call themselves Conchs, and folks who’ve lived on the key for at least 7 years may refer to themselves as Freshwater Conchs. However, because the cemetery is so little, only native Conchs may spend eternity there.

Mark and I learn all this and more while enjoying the Conch Train Tour. The tours last 90 minutes and leave every hour, so that means at least three trains, really just trolleys, are congesting traffic on the small island at any one time. Plus, thrown into the mix are at least three more from another tour company that offers 90-minute tours. The locals get annoyed but have come to accept it as a price to pay for, as Jimmie Buffet says, “Livin’ in Paradise.”

Our first night on the island we eat at Margaritaville, Buffet’s restaurant on Duval Street, the busy street with lots of surf and souvenir shops and restaurants. My mahi mahi is dry, but the music during dinner is good, all Buffet songs, and the margaritas are excellent.

Our second night we choose a less-crowded location for dinner than the popular Duval Street: We walk back the boardwalk from the docks and settle into a seaside, wooden booth at Turtle Krawl, a large restaurant that’s barely half full. We prefer the laid-back environment of the boardwalk to the laid-back, sensory overload of Duval Street.

Every evening the sun sets is a celebration on the west edge of Key West. The sun setting at the far edge of the ocean through billowy clouds is quite pretty, but also people crowd around street performers doing tricks for tips. A thin, athletic-looking man walks on his hands and bounds upright, one guy’s dog walks to people holding dollar bills, and she lightly chomps the money and carries it to drop in a hat; the owner tells semi-corny jokes the whole time. The best we see is a guy who juggles fire while riding a unicycle who tells funnier jokes. He opened his act by telling us he’d be juggling “not five, not six, but THREE” fire sticks. We speak with him after the performance. He has his college degree in finance but prefers the easy-going lifestyle of Key West and says he makes a good living earning tips each evening.

If either of us could juggle well or ride a unicycle, Mark and I might consider a move too. Key West is cool.