If I could have made this enough of a post, it would have everything in it…*

Southernmost Point in the USA!

Southernmost Point in the USA!

Look at a map of Key West: it’s a very small island, claustrophobically gridded by streets with only a few small slivers of public beaches. As somebody who usually seeks out the biggest, blankest spots on the map, this was not my usual destination. But every place has its own magic. Besides, I’ve already hit the Northwesternmost and Easternmost points and the geographic center of the U.S.A. Might as well add the Southernmost!

Key West – all 2 by 4 miles of it – is a mosh pit. Lots of people, everywhere, at all times. Except for early morning. That’s the best time for a quiet walk around town. (Well, except for the constantly crowing roosters! Why are there so many chickens in Key West?) Once we got away from the Duvall Street circus and the opulent waterfront hotels and into the interior of the island, we were amazed to discover whole neighborhoods of small, charmingly rundown houses inhabited by a cast of salty local characters. Authentic island life lives on Key West, if you go looking for it!

One of the highlights of our morning walk: a massive Banyan tree!

One of the highlights of our morning walk: a massive Banyan tree!

Once the dogs had a good walk, we parked them in the car in a shaded parking garage downtown, where they’d stay cool in the heat of the day and braved the more touristy parts of the island. After some Key Lime pie, we headed to Hemingway’s House. I love visiting writers’ residences but after waiting in line for 15 minutes with a bunch of tourists, most of whom I’d be willing to bet have read little Hemingway and a lot of things-to-do-in-Key-West-checklists, I stepped to the side.

I would have loved to have found some magic corner in Papa’s place, but I knew the experience wasn’t going to be what I wanted it to be. Instead, I checked out a street artist’s wares, spread out on the sidewalk in front of the famous residence. An abstract of Hemingway Playing the Piano, painted on a “Sugared Lime” paint sample from Home Depot, caught my eye and I bought it from Jay the painter for the princely sum of $1 — my one Key West souvenir. I’d so much rather give a buck to an artist than $13 to a tourist trap.

Hemingway Playing the Piano, by Jay

Hemingway Playing the Piano, by Jay. Definitely going in the Teardrop!

Stay tuned for a post on the highlight of our trip to the Florida Keys: a sunset sail!

* This title is a somewhat bastardly tribute to the opening line of my all-time favorite chapter of any book, ever: the last chapter of Death in the Afternoon, which begins “If I could have made this enough of a book, it would have everything in it,” and then goes on to describe the sights, smells and sensations of summer in Spain in the most vivid yet understated poetics. It’s quintessential Hemingway. If you’ve never read Hemingway or never liked his books, or always avoided his grisly bullfighting treatise, do yourself a favor and read Chapter 20 of Death in the Afternoon.

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently traveling the backroads from New Mexico to Alaska, writing and living out of a tiny Teardrop camper. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
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11 Responses to If I could have made this enough of a post, it would have everything in it…*

  1. I can completely relate to your description (and likely sinking feeling) as you stood in line to see Hemingway’s residence. Recently while in Washington, D.C. looking at colleges with my son, after an early dinner, he headed back to the hotel and I wanted to see the Vietnam Memorial before we left the city, as we had missed it on our evening walk the night before. As I arrived with the sun just barely starting to set, so did at least SEVEN busses full of teens from some leadership conference. Many were incredibly respectful, but many were not (I would have said the same about 7 busses of adults). I desperately waited, hoping the crowds would dissipate so I could sit and just absorb the gravity of that memorial, but really it was impossible to do so after waiting that long and experiencing the mobs of many indifferent people chattering about inane things in front of that sobering wall.

  2. I spent 4 months in Key west in my rv back in 1996 . I actualy boondocked . Alltho tricky I was able to pull it off. Of course that was awhile back. One problem with it was finding a dump station. Because of it being an island they only have one and it was at the rv park . If you didnt stay there , you couldnt use it. So, once a week I would go up to the key that has state park (forget which one) and spend the night there. Using the dump station and water . I loved it there. I was into music and dancing a lot so spent a lot of evenings at a couple different bars just dancing the night away… I also had a part time job at the Hogs breath and was able to go on their sailboat, snorkel excursions for only $5.00 . Yes,it is crowded but it is a very unique place with lots of unique people. Not much for beaches tho. Did you know that the main beach is man made? They dragged in tons of trucks of sand to make it. I wouldnt want to live there but it is one of my memorable places from my 2 years in an RV.

    Anyways, I wanted to mention to you a great little restaurant that you should check out while there. It is in Bahama village and called Blue Heaven. Funky little outdoor place with tons of chickens running around. I guess in the old days they did cock fighting there. Now, they just have the chickens running free. The eggs are fresh ! The food is fantastic !!! with a caribean twist. I hope you get a chance to try it.

    • sierrasue123 says:

      Dont forget to check out the nightly sunset party on the main dock. Entertainment and food. Let me know if Dominique and the cats are still there. He has domestic cats that he puts on a great show with.

  3. Juliette Cannon says:

    Interesting take on Hemingway. I love his imagination and writing is just …..there is no word to describe. I visited the tourist trap few years back. Went to his favorite bar, drank his favorite drink, pet few of his cats, sat by his pool and reflected on his passion for life and death. And then I decided he was truly a master of manipulation. I actually felt dumbfounded when I realized he made up the entire “old man and the sea” based on his fishing trip. I once thought that all marlins should get together and have a poke at him. Though it is undesputable he is a writing genius…

    Juliette

    Sent from my iPad

  4. I amazed about the amount of miles you put in during the year. Key West is glorious, and hope you get to stop by and see the Key Deer on Big Pine Key.
    I did visit Hemmingway’s House, just to visit the cats. Browse my blog on Key West and it’ll pop up. Enjoy the beach for me!

  5. Tiffani says:

    I did Hemmingway house and it was worth it to see the flowers and gardens. And the cats of course :-) Key West is a fun spot to visit, but not enough beach for me. I love to get up early and walk the beach at sunrise and at night under the moon. But I do love the “flying monkeys”

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