We are back to our annual Key West vacation trip this week. And trust me, this year it comes at the perfect time. After a year of only working part-time, and mostly from home, I go back to teaching next week. I’m happy, excited, anxious, relieved, sad, and a little scared. I know it will all be fine once it gets going, but I’ll deal with that next week.
For now, there’s lots of sun, sand, and suds. You can read about some previous adventures here or here, but each year its new experience. Especially with kids. This place is friendlier to dogs than to the under-5 set, but it is one of my favorite places on earth for the quirky, art-loving community that is hidden under layers of sea salt. Mostly, our experiences now center around low-key watersports, such as floating or learning to swim for the kids, and balancing Bloody Marys on pool rafts for the adults. I medaled performing the Duval Crawl in my 20s, so now I’m on to a kinder, gentler Cayo Hueso experience.
It was this week last year that I began training to run my first half-marathon. Trying to run with a hangover, and smoker cough may explain my 2011 slow start, but I ran three 13.1s in the last year, and I actually enjoy getting up before everyone else and watching this city wake up. There are different kinds of people on Duval at 7:30 a.m., then there are at – say – 10:30 p.m. WAY different. And I love it.
First of all, I get to be the nosiest person on the island at that hour. In the mid 19th century, this island boaster more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the country. So, there are some amazing homes here. And yes, I know that everyone gawks at them, but I actively seek them out and look in there windows on my morning runs. Yes, I’m that person.
Second, the people here are weird. Really weird. And they celebrate it. And I love it. They decorate their houses, and cars. If you’ve never seen a Conch Car, you need to Google it. And only the boring ones actually make it to the web. There is no “politically correct” on an art-infused island. That would be SO mainland.
Third, I have found that where artists and alcohol are prevalent, they have some kick-ass cemeteries. Paris, for example. Add to that the fact that you can’t dig on a coral island, and you have an awesome above-ground cemetery. It’s like New Orleans minus the voodoo, add a dash of weed.
Today was a cemetery morning. I can’t explain my fondness for graveyards, I really can’t. But if you know me, you’ve probably been to one with me. Maybe it was all those Girl Scout projects where I did gravestone rubbings of the Revolutionary War cemeteries that litter the Maryland countrysides. Maybe its the quiet solitude that us artistic-types need to recharge (Jim Morrison was said to do his best writing in Pere LaChaise — oddly, the very cemetery that is threatening to exhume him because his remains are drawing rowdy visitors – myself included…). But I love to walk around and see the monuments to people who were.
The oldest grave I could find was 1858. It was a child — those always creep me out a bit.
The more I look around Key West in the morning, the more interesting it becomes. Hangovers and all.