Musings from Key West
By Michelle Kaye Malsbury
A couple of weeks ago one of my best girlfriends and her family came from Austria to visit me in Florida. We’ve been friends since my early college days back in Illinois where we both spent a couple of summers working for the Girl Scouts of America. Tina as a counselor, and I was waterfront director. (I was in charge or the canoe trips, which sometimes we as long as four or more days, and the swimming instructions/lifeguards at the pool)
Tina and I spent the next few years traveling back and forth between America, wherever I was living at that time, and Austria, where she worked for half of the year. We saw a lot of things in the USA and Europe too. We did not have a lot of money so we did what we could as inexpensively as possible. Eventually I ended up with my boyfriend, at the time-he later became my husband, in Key West, Florida, and Tina got married and had a son.
Prior to the child, Steve, who is now ten years old, Tina and her husband used to visit me (and Pat) each year in Key West. We always had fun going to the reef on Fury or Sebago for an afternoon of snorkeling or a sunset sail. We always made time to go to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville for a Margarita, and occasionally lunch. The Schooner Wharf Bar, Turtle Kraals, and The Half Shell along the waterfront were favorite happy hour stops of ours. If we wanted something slightly more upscale we went to Louie’s Backyard or Bagatelle. Back then Tina and Franz, her husband, were getting into the game of golf and they always spent an afternoon or two on the Key West Golf Club course. I suck at golf and most sports so I always skipped that outing. As Key West grew and new businesses emerged I tried to show them the progress each year by visiting the new restaurants or watering holes and introducing them to the owners and my friends. They loved it and have very fond memories of those years!
In 2005 we sold, my husband (soon to be my ex) our third or so house and bought a motor yacht that we kept berthed in Miami, Florida. For the first time in a long time we had no foothold in Key West. We took the boat to the Abaco’s, in the Bahamas, to the Keys, and the west cost of Florida, where she is berthed now.
Tina and Franz had not been back to America since 2000. A lot of changes had occurred since then and they really wanted to show Steve, their son, the boat. We all stayed on the boat for a few days and Tina and I began discussing things to do and places to go. We decided a short foray to Key West, for old time sake, would be a lot of fun so I began planning the trip.
We left on Sunday mid-morning and drove down I-75 until we got on the Florida Turnpike south heading to Florida City and Key West. We stopped a couple of times along the way to stretch and use the facilities or fuel up. Her husband Franz drove so she and I talked and caught up with the past ten years that we had not seen each other and Steve played with his Gameboy.
I had arranged for us to stay in my last house on United Street because it was a two bedroom, one bath, with a small pool and it was very hot and humid, therefore the pool would be used a lot by all of us. In the years since I had owned it it had had some small renovations that really made it pop. We settled in, got a cold drink, and the headed for Duval Street.
For those of you who do not know, Duval Street is the only street in the US that runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. The entire Island of Key West is only five miles by about two and a half at its widest point. Naturally, they (Tina, Franz, and Steve) had to stop at all of the tourist trap shops filled with kitschery and cheap t-shirts by the rack full. A couple of times we stopped for liquid refreshment at the local pubs like Margarittaville and Sloppy Joe’s and the Conch Republic Bar. I called some old friends and met them at some of these stops so we could also catch up. We took pictures and reminisced about old times and all the fun we had when I used to live there too. They asked me to please come back there to live. I said I would think about it, but am not sure I would like to go back there to live. It was fun for the seventeen years that I lived and played there and I still have a lot of friends there, but I sort of feel like going back there would be like going backwards and I want to experience new things now and move forward.
We stayed in Key West for four days during which time we did a wonderful sunset sail complete with band and food on the Fury compliments of one of my dear friends that I used to work with over the time that I lived there. I arranged for Tina and Franz and Steve to ride some jetski’s off the Reach Resort’s beach. I did a short, fifteen minute, radio segment on KONK 1500am, promoting my new book The Swindler. All of my old pals listened in and called me afterward telling me how great it went. I loved it! (yes, I guess that really was my fifteen minutes of fame) We went to some of my favorite restaurants for food and grog and even a new one or two including the Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island where the owner, who is another old friend, greeted us like we were rock stars. I went off one night to a wine tasting, with another dear friend, Buzzy, at the Ocean Key House special upstairs restaurant, Hot Tin Roof, where the food parings were amazing and unique, and the wines, all from New Zealand, were delicious. Each morning Franz and I rose before the rest and went out for hot Café Con Leche, a special Cuban coffee, and toast that we brought back to my old house for all to savor.
We had a wonderful time, but the time was really too short to enjoy everything that Key West has to offer. I guess that leaves a little something for next time. (wink) Best of all, the trip made new family vacation memories for Tina, Franz, and Steve, and provided me with a short window of time to reconnect with old friends and perhaps even sell a few books.