“That’s a FABULOUS shirt, sweetie! Mind if we take a picture?” through my blurry peripheral vision I saw two of the largest gay men I have ever seen in my entire life. One of them was wearing a pink tutu and fairy wings. The other in a t-shirt emblazoned with “I’m not gay, but my boyfriend is” and a top hat made of palm fronds. I didn’t remember taking any hallucinogens, so I knew what I was looking at was very real. Normally, you might think this to be an odd interaction, but on Duval Street in Key West…anything goes. “Sure, kittens!” I chirped, finding the whole situation highly entertaining. Two, six foot, muscular men; one channeling his inner Sugar Plum Fairy and the other singing Lady Gaga, chasing me down to be photographed with me…and my boring “Cash Only” t-shirt. “Where did you get that? LOVE IT,” the Nutcracker Suite reject sang as they positioned themselves around my chest, blowing kisses.
As the sun was rising over Sloppy Joe’s, I happily posed for my photo-op. “Work it, girl!” they laughed as the guy working at the information booth snapped a few shots. “Oh, this is so going on Facebook, Steve is going to die,” I didn’t ask who Steve was, but I knew by the company he kept, that Steve was awesome. “I got it on-line,” I laughed, as I tried to make my best sexy face. “Oh my god, it goes great with your boobs! Did you get those on-line, too?” the guy in the top hat squealed. “No, they came with the frame, honey!” I responded, again laughing hysterically. “Ooh! Smart, cute and sassy! If I wasn’t such a queen, I’d be all over you,” said the man in the wings. “Settle down, we don’t want to make Steve jealous” I directed. “You’re too cute! What’s your name, honey?” he inquired. “My friend’s call me Delicious!” I laughed; I’ve always wanted to say that. “Well, Delicious. Thanks for the pictures”. “Do you know where I can get a Bloody Mary?” I asked, figuring if anyone knew where I could get an early morning drink, it was these two. “Oh, um…go down to the end of the block. There’s a bar called the Schooner Warf . Tell Bob, Jack sent you,” and in a flash, they were gone.
It was 7 a.m. on Saturday morning; there was no logical reason for me to be awake. My body just wouldn’t let me sleep anymore. When I opened my eyes, I discovered I had been sleeping on a couch. My boyfriend was cuddled up next to me. He is secretly a spooner, sometimes in the early morning hours I will wake up to him hugging me. If you asked him, he’d never admit to doing this, it would ruin his image. He calls me “The Furnace”. It’s a reference to the incredible amount of body heat I generate while unconscious; it’s not a compliment and has nothing to do with whether or not he finds me attractive. I don’t have any control over what my body does while I’m sleeping, although I wish I could keep my internal temperature at a level more conducive to snuggling, this admission may ruin my image, too.
The couch we were sleeping on was located on a yacht in a marina smack dab in the middle of Key West, FL. It’s good to be me, sometimes. This weekend was definitely one of those times. The yacht is a large vessel captained by friends of my boyfriend’s; they were nice enough to invite us down for the weekend. I was still fully clothed, and had the traces of last night’s make-up on my face…so I did what any adventurous broad with a few hours to kill and a screaming hangover does…I climbed off the boat, located my shoes and went in search of a Bloody Mary. The people in the hotel room directly above the boat gave me a standing ovation when they saw me stirring. I provided them with an obligatory curtsey, and thanked them for their support. I didn’t ask them why they were cheering, I could feel my hip throbbing with the pain of a fresh bruise, and I knew I must’ve fallen down and provided some other kind of drunken entertainment to my adoring fans. “Boy, you’re up early” they shouted down to me as the gripped their coffee cups and peered over the balcony through bloodshot eyes. “Yep, you know where a girl can get a Bloody Mary at this hour?” I yelled back. “You’re looking for a drink, already? What a trooper! We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” they chanted, pretending to bow. “Well, I’m probably still drunk, it has more to do with being stupid, than the fortitude of my liver,” I confessed. “There should be some place, but we don’t know where,” they admitted. “Let us know what you find,” and so began my early morning exploration of the island.
I felt like I had the entire place to myself, until the gay paparazzi tracked me down, I wasn’t aware that anyone else was awake. It was an eerie, yet peaceful experience. All of the shops were closed and the bars that had been jammed with people the night before were empty. I have never seen Key West this desolate, but I’m glad I got the chance to see it through sort of sober eyes. When I’m there, I forget I’m the tourist. Having spent most of my life near a vacation destination, it has all the comforts of home. There are restaurants with $13.00 sandwiches. Gift shops selling everything from beach towels to cheaply manufactured hookas. There are even the clothing stores, with the over-priced tropical print dresses and “Liquidation! Everything must go” signs in the windows. If you learn nothing else from me, please absorb the following: these places are not going out of business, they are not struggling…they just want you to think you’re getting a deal. If you go back a year from now, the same signs will be hanging in the window as if the store’s name is actually “Going out of business”. When I go to places like this, touristy ones, I try to find the places where the locals congregate.
The Schooner Warf was definitely a local joint. Bob was behind the bar, right where Jack said he would be. Local places are never as clean as the establishments on the main roads; they are always tucked in a corner somewhere. They are situated this way because the locals are hiding from you, after years of being surrounded by happy, tan people, spending money; your excitement with the area they call home loses its charm. It’s not that the locals don’t appreciate your presence; they just don’t want to have to entertain you. They aren’t on vacation and they don’t care where you’re from, they just want to have a drink in silence. I found a quiet place at the end of the bar; Bob came over and introduced himself. He handed me a newspaper, and stood waiting patiently for my order. A newspaper is usually a silent directive, it means, “read this, and don’t talk to me”. I ordered my drink and said “Jack told me to come here”. Bob smirked, “Jack’s still out and about, is he?”. “Yeah, he stopped me on Duval and asked to take a picture with me”. “That crazy bastard. What was the costume today?”. “Um, Fairy Ballerina?” I said, trying to gauge Bob’s mood. “Well, any friend of Jack’s is a friend of mine,” he said as he made my drink. Bob was salty looking, older, in his 50’s I would say. “What’s your name, honey?” he asked. “Sara, but you can call me Delicious” I said dryly. Bob broke out in a roaring laughter, “Everyone, this is Delicious,” he announced to the patrons at the bar. “I don’t think she’s from here, but she should be,”. “I don’t think my liver could handle it, but I’d be willing to give it a try,” I said, sucking down my drink. “Delicious, where are you from?”. “Well, Bob. I come from the great frozen north of Fort Lauderdale,”. “I thought I detected an accent,” he laughed. “Pardon my mood earlier, I thought you were one of those bubble heads from Wisconsin. I just didn’t think I could have another conversation about the ocean and how peaceful it is here,”. “It’s pretty fucking peaceful. But, please don’t feel obligated to entertain me” I declared. “Your drinks are on the house, I love a non-tourist, tourist.” He said seriously, as a smile appeared from under his mustache. “That just means you get a bigger tip, Bob.” “Exactly, Delicious”. Bob and I had an understanding; if I wasn’t obnoxious he’d keep the drinks flowing. My one Bloody Mary turned in to four; before I knew it, I had made friends with several weather beaten people seated on bar stools. They were all from somewhere else, but came to Key West to get away from something or feel like they belonged. I couldn’t take advantage of Bob’s generosity and I knew that my boyfriend would be worried about me if I stayed out too much longer. It’s generally not a good idea for me to wander around places like this unattended; I pick up strays. He probably wouldn’t be pleased if I was a puddle before he even got the sleep out of his eyes and had a gaggle of men in feather boas following me home. So, I took my last drink to go and made my way back to the boat. The cruise ships were just letting their passengers off for a day in Key West. I was asked to pose for three more pictures on my way back, but none of them were as interesting as Jack and the guy in the hat. I obliged, laughing that my chest was getting so much attention.
By the time I hit the dock, the people on the boat were stirring, they all looked like they’d been hit by trucks. We sat on the back of the boat trying to determine the origin of the various stains and bruises. It was clear we’d all had a great time, but the details were quite fuzzy. The only people we could count on for an accurate description of the events of the previous night were seated on the balcony above us, and I was afraid to ask.