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Friday, December 10, 2010

Key West - The Language

Key West - The Language

Everyone knows that Key West is 90 miles north of Havana. I’m reminded every day when I leave my home, as the famous Southernmost Marker Buoy, on Whitehead and South St., is directly in my view. A lot of people express surprise when they hear it’s 160 miles from Key West to Miami. It’s a lot farther to Miami than Havana from here. The reality is, Key West is closer to Havana then it is to even Key Largo! Now, anyone going to Havana naturally expects Spanish to be spoken, as that’s the tongue of Cuba. I often hear surprise from visitors to Key West expressing dismay, when they tell me that on their way here, workers at Miami International Airport they encountered, didn’t even speak English.
Here in Key West, right in between Spanish speaking Miami and Spanish speaking Havana, we have an odd scenario. Like Miami, we have, and always had throughout history, a great influence from the island of sugarcane, tobacco, and rum, ninety miles south of us. Cubans have been coming here since the beginning. For many years prior to the American government procuring it from Spain, many Cubans just considered it a Cuban island. So, it goes without saying, you will hear Spanish spoken in Key West.
However, unlike our neighbor to the north, Miami, which has been populated over the last 50+ years by Latin Americans from every Spanish and Portuguese speaking country in the hemisphere, Key West’s immigrants are a whole different kettle of fish altogether.
We have a very large amount of people living and working in Key West, from Eastern Europe. Czechs, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Uzbeks, Croatians, Slovinians… the list of Slavs (Hungarians excluded, as they’re not Slavs) is amazing. Mostly they are young adults who come here to work. I had to ask “Wait a minute. You’re from Eastern Europe. How did you decide on Key West?”. The most common answer I get is that either they, or someone they know, worked on a cruise line that had Key West as a port of call. They, like so many others, fell in love with it and, in their case, came here after their contract was over and set themselves up. On the whole, they’re a great group of people.
We also have a large amount of Haitian emigrants here. Hearing their patois is common, especially in the stores in New Town.
So, here we have Native Conchs, Americans like myself, who adopted Key West as their home, Cubans who have immigrated here, or generations from their great, great grandparents who did, Bahamians, Haitians, plus all of these aforementioned Eastern Europeans who speak a myriad of tongues, though related, not conversable. How do we all communicate with each other?
It’s very simple: Everyone in Key West, no matter where they are from, speaks English.
I recall once I was walking on Palm Avenue, by the Garrison Bight Bridge and an Audi slowed down with a man hanging out the window, with only his legs still in the car. They pulled over, but never stopped as he asked me some sort of directions in Spanish. I understand a little Spanish, however his words came out as fast as a 50 caliber machine gun and I didn’t understand him. He was in his early thirties, so I answered in English, “What are you looking for?” He got a discussed look on his face and said “No Espanol???!!!” ( You don’t speak Spanish?) . He slammed the side of the car in frustration with a contorted face and swore at me in Spanish. It was my guess that I wasn’t the first person that didn’t speak Spanish that they ran into in Key West. The driver sped off, as his window hanging partner gave me the finger, while hollering that my mother was a whore in Spanish, and took a left on N. Roosevelt and roared away. It was my guess that they were trying to find their way back to Miami. I empathized with them in a way. Here they were, right in between Miami and Havana. It’s a geographic common sense that Spanish would be spoken everywhere. Additionally, it’s very first name, Cayo Hueso (Bone Key), is Spanish. So it’s kind of an odd anomaly, from a geographic stand point, that English is the language in Key West.

But, no matter where you go in Key West, no matter where they are from on the planet, everyone speaks English.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Suggestions for Visiting In Key West


This is certainly not the end all, spoken from the oracle, by any means, just off the top of my head, at the moment. Having issued that disclaimer, these are worthy of attention, I feel. No doubt, I’ll forget a bunch, but I can always stuff them into subsequent blogs. Hope you enjoy and hope it helps!
Believe me, the very last thing you want to do in Key West in order to get around, is drive your car. Parking just flat out sucks, to begin with. If you don’t take this advice, trust me, you will agree you were a phucking idiot for having not heeded the warning.
No one would argue that Key West is one of the most beautiful towns in North America, and perhaps the world. There are more homes from the 1800’s here, than anywhere else in Florida, for instance. Additionally, there are so many historical points of interest, sometimes you don’t know where to start. With that in mind, far and away the best way to see this island is on foot. Yes. On Foot. On foot, you miss the least and when you do see something of interest, you stop. You don’t put the brakes on, slow down, and turn around and go back. You just plain stop and take it in, plain and simple. With obesity on the rise and so many of us are just a bunch of lazy blobs(myself included), walking from point A to point B is a cultural change, but trust me on this, it’s the best way. And if you’re in a rush to get everywhere you want to go, you should have gone to Los Angeles for your vacation. This is an island and it’s laid back.
If walking just plain doesn’t work for you, the next best option is by bicycle. Lots of places around town rent bikes too and the rates are quite reasonable. Ten – twelve bucks a day, is the norm. Biking is great in this town as well. I will stick my neck out and say that we’re one of the largest biking communities on a percentage basis, in both the U.S. and the Conch Republic. I can safely say that I have never had an issue parking my bike here, regardless of event, even Fantasy Fest. It’s 100% environmentally friendly and great exorcise at the same time. Welcome to the island and hop on a bike!
Electric cars are somewhat popular and they have virtually no impact on the environment here. Available in 4,6, and 8 seats, they are quiet and efficient. Like cars, parking is a pain in the ass, though perhaps a bit less, as you will be able to park electric cars in spots that cars just cannot. For instance, I’ve often seen electric cars parked on Lazy Way at Schooner Wharf and they’re not in the way at all.
Scooters are the noisiest, most polluting vehicles on the island. Smokey, noisy, two cycle engines on them, they are usually rented by groups of two or more. A lot of locals have them as well, especially those who live in Mid-Town, or New Town and have to get to work in Old Town. They provide good, economic transportation to work and back. The city of Key West also provides specific parking spaces for scooters as well. The locals ride them every day of their lives. Visitors often have never ridden one before in their lives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a tourist wipe out on them. Believe me the tarmac in Key West is just as hard as anywhere else. Injuries will happen. Broken bones and road rash cases will be taken care of at the Key West Hospital. Serious injuries will freight you up to Miami, which have excellent hospitals for dealing with trauma. Often that little extra you didn’t expect for your vacation is the most memorable, such as a few days or weeks in Jackson Memorial Hospital in downtown Miami. It’s a beautiful facility and if you’re conscious, you can admire it as the orderly wheels you about the hospital to get various scans and tests.

Do not, I repeat DO NOT leave your motel, bed and breakfast, guest house, wherever you are staying, without a camera, EVER. There will always be loads of things and people to photograph in this town! Bring extra memory chips for your camera as well. Shoot at about 3.5 megs or so. You’re not going to print them and between 3 and 4 megs takes up a lot less room on the chip (a.k.a. =more pictures), as well as your computer when you get back home. I promise you, if you leave without a camera, you’ll be cursing yourself all day long. Likewise, all the pictures you take will be a lifetime’s worth of memories. Simple fact is; Even if you take 900 photographs, you’ll end up wishing you took 1,800. Take the camera and shoot away! And don’t worry about looking like a tourist. I’m a local and I’m always snapping pictures, wherever I go. There’s ALWAYS something new. Three months later, when work’s been trying, just grab a beer, sit back and look at all those pictures you took in Key West and I guarantee one, possibly two things will happen. A) The stress of the day will vanish. B) There’s a good chance you’ll book your next trip down!

More to come in future blogs!!!!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pirates and Parties

It’s a funny thing. Here I am in Key West, a musician and a songwriter and my new favorite band is a troop of singing, amateur pirates. This is kind of amazing as there is so much professional music talent that lives here, not to mention the talent that is transient through here week after week. I can’t say any one is the leader of this ensemble, as they are all captains in “Captains of The Devil’s Triangle”. They hail largely from Key West, although “Caribbean Pearl” travels all the way from Key Largo, about 95 miles each way, to join in their activities. Their number last Sunday, when they performed at El Alamo, was seven. I’m assuming that Barnacle Beau is the musical director, as he’s currently the only member that plays an instrument, which is guitar. I’ve known Barnacle Beau for a couple of years and he has a fascinating history, having played professionally on the west coast of the U.S., in traveling carnivals. Beau’s a great entertainer and musician in his own right. Many tourists know him as he is also one of Key West’s street pirates. My friend Scarlet Jai, one of the members, has just purchased an Irish bodhran, which is a hand held drum and in addition, she has informed me that another member recently picked up a concertina, which they’ll add to their band. On a few songs Scarlet Jai also plays swords as a percussive instrument. It works great too!
The music they’re playing are a mix of traditional sea shanties, traditional drinking songs from Great Britain and Ireland, plus a couple of originals, in the same vain. Just the type of thing you’d expect from a band of pirates, naturally. The thing that I really love about them is that they truly have a sincere passion for what they’re doing and also, have such a great time doing it. Laughing and joking is always going on creating an atmosphere loaded in mirth. They are also very good. In the entire performances on both Thursday and Sunday, I only heard one note sung off key. Bear in mind these are amateur singers and there’s always a bunch of laughing going on as well. I’ve heard a lot more off notes by both local and visiting pros.
The crowd is always into it as well. It’s not another rock band grinding out standards, or a solo performer playing songs they grew up with. Not a country band playing another Kenny Chesney or Garth Brooks song. Not another band playing Jimmy Buffett songs, upon request. This is something different. Songs many haven’t ever heard prior, but everyone laughs their way through the gig, both the ensemble and the crowd. Seriously, how can’t you laugh your ass off with a group of pirates singing sea shanties and drinking songs in a bar? Hello. Members include Captain Barnacle Beau, Captain Scarlet Jai, Captain Wasabi, Captain Mamasabi, Captain Caribbean Pearl, Captain Sawbones Sarah, and Captain Blackheart Charlie. As I said earlier, apparently none are the leader, as they are all captains.
These guys remind the rest of us that we all should be having a great time while we play. That’s what music should be all about.

Down here in Key West we’re on a three week, non-stop party marathon The first week of all this liver exorcise was the biggest event of the year, for Key West, Fantasy Fest. 60,000 were here by Saturday’s parade. I was fortunate to be aboard the Bad George Sound Band float. Not only did we end up winning Best Band of the parade, but we also had the Wedding of Sherrie Rustay-Waltz with Gary W. Ek right in the parade in front of La Concha hotel on Duval St. Mayor Gonzo Mays presided over the event while I was best man. A lot of hooting, hollering, laughing, and profane language was the case throughout the ceremony while pandemonium reigned. You’re typical wedding down here. The event was covered by Reuters International, out of Vienna, Austria, and also Associate Press. Yahoo Canada ran the Reuters piece, while the Miami Herald ran the AP story. The Key West Citizen ran nothing. Hello.

The following week we had the Parrotheads in town. About 4000 all come and converge, meeting here annually for their event. There’s lots of music in town, all over the place, during this event. Every year they have contest and the winner is determined by who’s group donates the most to charity. For the past five years, Scott Sperber out of Southern California has been runner up. The eternal bridesmaid. This year however, Scott turned the tables and won the event! Big congrats to Scott!
This week we are seeing the Powerboat races in town. We’re talking big money at this event. So much so, that the town’s businesses consider this one of the high points of the year. Local businesses usually thrive this week. Everyone’s happy!

Meanwhile, on my front, Bobby D is in town to help me with his vast experience in the studio and also guitar. We put four of his tracks down yesterday and the day before, with another hopefully today.
That’s what I’m off to now! See ya and THANKS for reading!

All The Best From Key West!

Chris Rehm

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bartender Appretiation Day

So? Who are your favorite bartenders? This is not a competition, but rather just an appreciation for those who are behind the bar, taking care of our libations and for many, offering an open ear. This is not to pit one against the other in some kind of stupid competition. This is just a way of saying “Thanks!” and telling those who serve us that we’re grateful for their dedication to their profession, as well as to ourselves.

Obviously, I’ll be listing those here in Key West, as that is my home. Of course, it doesn’t matter where you are. List those whom you feel deserve a tip of the hat to and tell them to check it out, so it hits home for them. Perhaps you live in Kalamazoo, Michigan and you go on vacation every year to Amsterdam and go to a small bar there, where Dirk van der Voorde always remembers you and makes your vacation there, serving you Grolsch. List him! Like any of us, all of these folks enjoy being appreciated and here’s your opportunity!

List, between three and six favorite bartenders, in no particular order and the bar they work in.

Have fun!

I'll kick things off, in no particular order:

Ken - The Green Parrot, Key West

Vicky - Schooner Wharf Bar, Key West

Patrick - Captain Tony's Saloon, Key West

Jeff - The Green Parrot Key West

Jim - Gilbert's Resort, Key Largo

Bob - Schooner Wharf Bar, Key West

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September! One of the Island's secrets!

One of the best kept secrets about Key West is August and September. Many say “Oh, it’s too hot in August!” While in September it’s back to school. The hottest temperature on record is 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Plain and simple, it’s hotter in New York than it is in Key West. However, because of both school and temperature perception, August and September are our slowest months. Consequently, it may be the best time to visit! I should also mention that the average year round temperature here is 78.2 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the warmest city in the United States. Key West is also the only frost free city in the U.S. as well.

Tourism being the life blood of the town, themed events are run throughout the year. September hosts the annual Poker Run, sponsored by Peterson’s Harley Davidson, in Cutler Bay, Fla., about 140 miles north of here. This is always a great event and has been a Key West tradition for just under forty years. It also brings in a lot of bikers, who in turn fill the rooms in all of the hotels, party hearty in all the restaurants and bars, and perhaps most importantly support all of the other businesses in town. Back when I was at the art gallery, we always had a fantastic week when they were in town. This week we had Robert Douglas, Michelle Dravis, and Will Parker rocking El Alamo with special guest Ken Ryan out of Nashville! Over at The Green Parrot it was Bill Blue and the Nervous Guys taking no prisoners. Singing with Bill this week was Ms. Deb Hudson, who really kicked it out! We have the annual Woman’s Fest celebration going on the week prior. There are always a lot of very happy women in this very free thinking town every September! 

Then, there’s a a bit of a dry spell until October 22 – 31, when easily the wildest party in both the United States and the Conch Republic happens with Fantasy Fest. Fantasy Fest is the ultimate expression of Key West at its wildest. Many know Fantasy Fest for its nudity, and rightly so. However, it must also be stated that Fantasy Fest is about 25-33% nudity and the rest great costumes. The folks who come for Fantasy Fest, also greatly support the community in purchases throughout the town. Most businesses flourish during the week of Fantasy Fest.

Fantasy Fest is a 10 day event actually. It always finishes on the last Sunday of October and starts with the Goombay Festival 10 days prior, on Friday. As far as Fantasy Fest goes, I’ll get further in depth as we get closer to the date. The Goombay Festival celebrates the Bahamian roots of the African American population here in Key West. It’s a small event, however one of the most interesting parties of the year is held at the Blue Heaven Restaurant (corner of Petronia and Thomas) that evening, which traditionally has a local Bahamian Junkanoo band playing on the water tower, creating a mysterious atmosphere with voodoo-style masks and limbo contests taking place. This is a must!

The Beer of the Blog today is Pacifica Clara from Mexico. It’s aquite refreshing and clean tasting beer that tastes great ice cold on a hot day. I had one at Island Dog’s Restaurant on Front St. the other day… no.. wait… I think I had three! 

See you next blog!!!!


September! One of the Island's secrets!

One of the best kept secrets about Key West is August and September. Many say “Oh, it’s too hot in August!” While in September it’s back to school. The hottest temperature on record is 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Plain and simple, it’s hotter in New York than it is in Key West. However, because of both school and temperature perception, August and September are our slowest months. Consequently, it may be the best time to visit! I should also mention that the average year round temperature here is 78.2 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the warmest city in the United States. Key West is also the only frost free city in the U.S. as well.

Tourism being the life blood of the town, themed events are run throughout the year. September hosts the annual Poker Run, sponsored by Peterson’s Harley Davidson, in Cutler Bay, Fla., about 140 miles north of here. This is always a great event and has been a Key West tradition for just under forty years. It also brings in a lot of bikers, who in turn fill the rooms in all of the hotels, party hearty in all the restaurants and bars, and perhaps most importantly support all of the other businesses in town. Back when I was at the art gallery, we always had a fantastic week when they were in town. This week we had Robert Douglas, Michelle Dravis, and Will Parker rocking El Alamo with special guest Ken Ryan out of Nashville! Over at The Green Parrot it was Bill Blue and the Nervous Guys taking no prisoners. Singing with Buill this week was Ms. Deb Hudson, who really kicked it out! We have the annual Woman’s Fest celebration going on the week prior. There are always a lot of very happy women in this very free thinking town every September! 

Then, there’s a a bit of a dry spell until October 22 – 31, when easily the wildest party in both the United States and the Conch Republic happens with Fantasy Fest. Fantasy Fest is the ultimate expression of Key West at its wildest. Many know Fantasy Fest for its nudity, and rightly so. However, it must also be stated that Fantasy Fest is about 25-33% nudity and the rest great costumes. The folks who come for Fantasy Fest, also greatly support the community in purchases throughout the town. Most businesses flourish during the week of Fantasy Fest.

Fantasy Fest is a 10 day event actually. It always finishes on the last Sunday of October and starts with the Goombay Festival 10 days prior, on Friday. As far as Fantasy Fest goes, I’ll get further in depth as we get closer to the date. The Goombay Festival celebrates the Bahamian roots of the African American population here in Key West. It’s a small event, however one of the most interesting parties of the year is held at the Blue Heaven Restaurant (corner of Petronia and Thomas) that evening, which traditionally has a local Bahamian Junkanoo band playing on the water tower, creating a mysterious atmosphere with voodoo-style masks and limbo contests taking place. This is a must!

The Beer of the Blog today is Pacifica Clara from Mexico. It’s aquite refreshing and clean tasting beer that tastes great ice cold on a hot day. I had one at Island Dog’s Restaurant on Front St. the other day… no.. wait… I think I had three! 

See you next blog!!!!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Today's Key West Citizen

I'm happy to say that my letter was published in today's Key West Citizen! Thanks guys!

I rode my bike up North Roosevelt Boulevard this afternoon and realized a couple of things, which are really common sense. The renovations ... will take about two years, according to estimates. Really? This will amount to being a two-year roadblock.

The insurrection that took place here 28 years ago was based on a roadblock as well. That ... lasted far less than two years. This construction is going to cause great hardship to the local, tourist-based economy. "Key West, the town you can't get in or out of." Just like 28 years ago, only twice as worse. ...

What are the people in City Hall thinking? ... One of the great things visitors love about our town is the history. Enter Key West today and you have a quaint, old boulevard. So now we're going to tear that up and ... create havoc, both traffic and economic, building a modern thoroughfare. Perhaps we should change our name to Southernmost Miami?

I feel the best thing to do is, if necessary, repave [it]. This should take about one to two months. This should also take place in August and September of next year, the slowest months of the year here. The seawall should be repaired where it needs to be. Don't build a whole new wall. In the places where palms have died and there are empty spaces, replace them. ... Here is a proposal that saves ... approximately 18 months' of construction and millions ... in expenses, not to mention the same in local business sacrifices. ... We retain our authentic look, which continually draws visitors here. ... I'm tempted to send City Hall my bill for $750,000 (the same as the Glynn Archer estimate) based solely on the P.T. Barnum observation of "There's a sucker born every minute." However, as it's not coming solely out of their collective pockets, but rather the citizens and taxpayers of Key West, I'll hand them the ball ... and hope they run with it. Let's just hope they pull their heads out and see the sunshine.

Chris Rehm

Key West

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hands Across The Gulf

On Saturday the “Hands Across The Gulf” event was held at the El Alamo bar on Charles St. A direct result of the Gulf oil tragedy, Hands Across The Gulf was organized to give aid and assistance to those affected. Events were organized by Hands Across The Gulf’s very own Alene Zolin Albright of Houston, Texas, with events in both Key West and Fort Lauderdale, this last weekend. In addition, a third event will be held in Houston on September 25th at Cullin’s Live, 11500 Spacecenter Blvd, Houston, Tx.
They are still seeking sponsors for the Houston event. Here in Key West, Cypress House stepped up to the plate offering a place to stay for the out of town organizers and musicians. Cypress House is a beautiful guest house on Caroline St. just a block off Duval St. Close enough, yet far enough at the same time. A big note of appreciation goes to them as a private, local enterprise for donating their much assistance!!! Also, Rock Star Energy Drinks and Winn Dixie Supermarkets kicked in to help out the cause also. Hats off to them as well!!!

A gathering first took place the day prior, aboard the Schooner Wolf, complements of Admiral Finbar. Admiral Finbar oversees the Conch Republic Naval Fleet and is also one of the key members of the Conch Republic insurrection back in 1982. The Wolf is a gorgeous schooner and also doubles as the home for Admiral Finbar and his first mate Julie. With guests from Key West to Arizona, The Admiral and his crew volunteered their services for a sunset cruise leaving out of Safe Harbor on Stock Island. What a time was had! Rich In Spirit played a bunch of great songs aboard the schooner while under sail, that had everyone in a jovial mood. In addition, Timothy Thomas, Ian Sklar, Joerdie Scherkeryk, artists visiting from out of town, all picked up guitars and added their artistic talents to the sunset. A very big thanks to Admiral Finbar and Julie for sharing, not only their schooner, but also their home to us all. I had to almost force the tip into his pocket at the end of the sail. Amazing.
The event showcased both local and guest musicians from out of town, chipping in for the cause. Artists from Arizona, Texas, New York City, and the Conch Republic all chipped in. In addition, Gary Ek’s was a host and broadcast the event live with video streaming.
Artists from all sorts of genres played the event, which stretched from 7pm to after 4am. The show started with a peculiar duo, with one guy playing a kareoke computer(yeah, really. Hello) and the other guy speaking like a machine gun into the mic, in what I thought was a foreign language, only later to be informed was actually English. It was a rough start for the on line broadcast as well; however Gary Ek got that squared away soon enough. The rest of the evening was superb with performances by, Mary Spear, Bill Blue, Gary Hempsey, Deb Hudson, Island Alex, Clayton Lopez, Rich in Spirit, Gina, myself, Ian Sklar, Joerdie Scherkeryk (daughter of Woodstock legend Melanie) Timothy Thomas. Oh, and did I mention Captains of The Devil’s Triangle? An eight piece ensemble of pirates singing fun, seafaring songs one would expect of a group of pirates! Had everyone laughing and singing along!
Some notable musicians who need to be noted in specific: Steve Gibson, an amazing mandolin player, backed up at least half the show, maybe more, with both 4 string electric mandolin as well as 8 string acoustic/electric mandolin. Backup vocals as well! Great job Steve!!!
Oscar played congas with just as many folks, as well. Hat‘s tipped to Oscar!
And without a doubt, the yeoman job musically of the evening goes to bass player, Bubba Low Notes. Bubba played virtually the entire evening non-stop, backing every act starting with Mary Spear through Bill Blue, which was about seven hours straight. On my set I played all original songs that he never heard. He fell right into the groove on the first note. Bubba truly is The Man!!!

A great evening and a great cause was had by all. Thanks to all!!!!

(videos complements of Gary Ek, videographerfromhell)


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Key West Crime Reports :-)

The Citizen, the local Key West paper, everyday carries a daily piece called “ Crime Report”. Often there are serious crimes reported, however often there hilarious crimes they post as well. I guess about a year back they decided they would pull the Crime Report from the paper. The uproar it created was deafening and they put it right back in. Below are some recent Crime Reports, which are a shining example of how entertaining it can actually be.

Man says facial tissues moved during 'burglary'

KEY WEST -- A man told police early Thursday morning that another man broke into his apartment and rearranged his tissues.
The 51-year-old man told officers around midnight that another man who lives in the same building tore a small hole in one tissue and wrinkled a corner of another tissue, and this was evidence of a burglary, reports say.
The officers found no signs of forced entry and no evidence that a crime occurred, but they noted in reports that "this has been an ongoing issue between these two for several years, according to past calls."
One-sided fight
KEY WEST -- A drunk man allegedly punched and kicked a pickup truck parked at Casa Marina Resort early Friday morning, causing $1,500 in damage, reports say.
Officers found the "very intoxicated" suspect walking near Alberta and Waddell streets, reports say. The man told them he was a guest at the resort and that he "drank too much alcohol and was stupid," reports say.
He was charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief and booked into jail.

Police fish drunken man out of the drink

KEY WEST -- Police had to fish a drunken man out of the water Tuesday evening after he reportedly fell into the drink while arguing with another customer at a bar.
There were no injuries and no arrests.
Officers reportedly arrived at the Conch Republic Seafood Co. at 7:35 p.m. to find the 49-year-old Key West man treading water in Key West Bight.
A manager at the bar/restaurant helped the officers throw out a life ring and pull the man ashore, reports say.
As soon as the man was on land, he allegedly started complaining about multiple past injuries, ranging from a hernia to a broken neck, and listed a litany of lawsuits he supposedly was filing.
Officers asked him what happened, but the man reportedly just "kept repeating that his margarita was still at the bar."
He allegedly refused medical attention, saying he would "wait until he hurt more tomorrow before going to the hospital," reports say.
Finally, the man reportedly told officers that a manager had walked out of the bar, swore at him and then pushed him in the water.
But another manager reportedly had seen the man arguing with another customer near the water.
Unable to get a description of a suspect, police issued the man a case number and told him the report would be available at police headquarters.
Reports did not indicate if he was able to finish his margarita.

And finally for today, while shopping in the famous Fausto's market on Flemming St. I came across Fuki, makers of Japanese Plum wine and Sake. I mean, how could I pass that up?

I just couldn't help but hear in my brain "You want Fuki Fuki?"


Friday, July 2, 2010

The South is North of Here

To begin with, a very special thanks to my friend Ellen, here in Key West, who is lending me her laptop, as my computer has picked up a virus that apparently will not allow it to log on! Ouch! To complicate matters further, the folks at the computer store here in Key West, have suggested that it is the anti virus companies themselves that are perpetrating the virus themselves in order to force people to purchase their products in order to eliminate them! Truly amazing indeed!

However, we're on word and up word, thanks to my friend Ellen! Lets hear it for Ellen!!!

A funny thing happened this evening. I was over at Blue Heaven at the bar enjoying a Key West Southernmost Wheat Beer, when a guy around the corner of the bar started asking the bartender about eating there. The Blue Heaven is renowned on the island for it's fantastic cuisine at any hour. The subject went specifically to breakfast and the bartender started going on how the Blue Heaven is always rated in the top three restaurants for breakfast on the island. At this point, one of the guys speaking to her asked, in a very pronounced Southern accent "Do they have biscuits and gravy?".

At this point I felt it appropriate to add my two cents and chime in. "Excuse me sir, but you have to understand, The South is north of here". This was right in my backyard, as I had just written a song for my album entitled "The South Is North Of Here". The song was influenced by all of the incredible songwriters from Nashville who come here every Spring and perform in venues all over Key West. Talk about a treat! All of these performers are just incredible writers, performers, and wonderful folks to boot. So many of them said however "It's so great to play in the South!!!". The point is, The Conch Republic is below The South. The poor guy at the bar looked bewildered. The bartender then chimed in "Oh he's right! you won't find that anywhere on the island. And the only place on the island that has sweet tea, is the McDonald's on the other side of the island. Oh no, this ain't The South". At this point I suggested that the South starts up in Florida City, about 130 miles north of Key West, which happens to also be the border (at The Last Chance Saloon) of the Conch Republic. At the same time, you'll find the Cuban dish "Black Beans and Rice" everywhere here.

The Conch Republic is, in addition to being "A Sovereign State of Mind" (Sir Peter Anderson, Secretary General of The Conch Republic) it is also The American Caribbean. Technically, we're above the Caribbean, however so are the Bahamas, but they fall into the distinction of being Caribbean and they're north of us, by and large.

The Keys have major cultural influences from Cuba, as the islands were once Spanish territory and Havana is only 90 miles away. The African American population in the Keys largely came here from the Bahamas years back, not the U.S. New England sea captains built homes here as their southernmost point to work from. The architecture style (and construction!) come directly from New England throughout Old Town. The Conch's were originally American ex pats who settled in the Bahamas as Tories in the American Revolution, but returned a generation or two later to the Keys. Their heritage was both north and south, at a time when there was no north or south. You were either a Revolutionary, or a Tory (a loyal subject to the King of England).

The Keys, of course has a very proud history with the South as well. In the American Civil War, Key West was a quandary. The population was sympathetic to the Confederacy, yet they were occupied though out the conflict, from day one(and well, well before), by the Union Army, based at Fort Zachery Taylor.

Today, we have this stew of Southern, Northern, Bahamian, Cuban and we're all swimming together, harmoniously I may add, in The Gulf Stream. This is the American Caribbean. It's not North, or South, East, or West. What it is, is The Conch Republic. A "Sovereign State Of Mind". A completely different mindset than any of the aforementioned, yet at the same time, a very unique, and quite proud part of the United States of America.

A very happy 4th of July to all, from The Conch Republic!!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One of the people I admire the most here in The Conch Republic, is the Secretary General of the Conch Republic himself, Sir Peter Anderson. Sir Peter, over twenty some odd years, has always been promoting The Conch Republic, both here and abroad. As our economy revolves around tourism, naturally he’s been immensely strong in this category. However, he’s also been a pillar in local community services over the years as well.

Sir Peter possesses the very rare quality of being an intellectual, with both a sense of humor, as well as common sense. In this day and age… or any other, for that matter, how rare is that?

Sir Peter’s says the Conch Republic is a “Sovereign State of Mind”. ”. Certainly I wouldn’t argue that, as it grants those not fortunate enough to live here,the freedom to call themselves citizens of The Conch Republic.

Myself, I also like physical boundaries. From my standpoint, everything Sir Peter Anderson states is wonderful, albeit, I like the physical aspect as well. Back a few years ago, Sir Peter flew to Fort Jefferson, in the Dry Tortugas, to quell a misunderstanding, so I consider that the beginning of the geographical western boundary of the Conch Republic. Continuing east, it picks up the Marquesas Keys, about thirty miles west of Key West and on through the Keys and up to The Last Chance Saloon, at the end of the eighteen mile stretch, in Florida City. This has always been the northern border, as this was where the original road block was set up that started the Conch secession to begin with. Naturally it also includes all of the islands in the Florida Bay, including Dildo Key, which lies six miles S.S/E of Flamingo. I mean… how could it not ?

Dealing with the public, both tourists and locals on a day-to-day basis, I’ll often pose the question “Well, you know you’re in a different country, right?”. I have yet to have anyone dispute the question. Sometimes it’s enlightenment. “Huh?…. Wow. You know? You’re right?”. Other times it’s reinforcement. “You’re not kidding!” or “Oh! Absolutely!”. To date, I’ve never had anyone say “Oh you’re nuts! This is the Unites States and nothing else!”

The Conch Republic is a state of mind, as Sir Peter says. Yet, it is a very different state of mind than one finds on the mainland. As all seem to agree, it’s a country unto itself. On the other hand, we’re all true Americans through and through. The Conch Republic is a country within a country. It’s also a country within a state. I had a customer off the cuff say “Well, from here we’re heading up to Florida”. The subject of the Conch Republic never rose prior to this, nor was it ever mentioned by name.

On the one hand, somehow I think that The Conch Republic could be used by the USA as a great go-between in international diplomatic sticky points. A non-official mouth they could speak through to work out issues. On the flip side, so few up there know how to laugh, they would most likely bring more condos, wreck the town totally, and push forward a mainland mentality. Nah, they'll just fuck it up. Maybe we should just leave it just exactly as it is…

Long live the Conch Republic and God bless it's boundaries, both in the physical sense and the State of Mind. :-)


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Durf, Gary Ek, Dan Simpson, KONKAM, Walfrido

Well, this week was Durf's X-Cellent Artprize Adventure fundraiser held over at Harpoon Harry's on Wednesday. For those not familiar with Durf, he is a solar artist based in Key West. Okay, so your next question is "What is a solar artist?" right? Well, what Durf does is hang out in the sun with a piece of plywood and a magnifying glass. From the rays of the sun, via the magnifying glass he burns the image into the wood. It's quite remarkable. Doesn't take but a second either. Durf even lights his cigarettes with the damn glass!

So, in effort to help spread the word, I posted notifications on my Facebook page and stated it was held at Harpoon Harry's, The Blue Bird Cafe of Key West. This is the truth. Every Monday night, the open-mic draws songwriters, both local and from afar. It's not exclusive to songwriters by any stretch, but every Monday songwriters congregate there and play their songs. So, I just came up with the moniker of The Blue Bird Cafe of Key West, in a salute to the Blue Bird in Nashville. Imagine my surprise when I got there for Durf's event and the manager (and excellent songwriter) Dave Aaron is wearing a Blue Bird Cafe T-shirt!

Durf's event went very well. A good turnout by a lot of fans and players. Durf's off to Michigan for a few months and it looks like he may have another Artprize Adventure on his return! Can't wait!

Walfrido, the amazing artist out of Hawaii, once again is visiting Key West at the small Wyland Gallery at 102 Duval St. for the Memorial Day Weekend. Be sure to stop by and say "HEY"!!!

On Friday night it was Gary W. Ek's birthday party which started at 10pm. The party was peppered with food, Yuengling on ice, and Mt. Gay Rum. A great time was had at Gary's new location with his new girl Sherrie. All sorts of people showed up from Gary's Key West based internet radio station, and as well as Sherrie's day gig at Southernmost Tattoo where she's the office manager. A great time was had by all!

Before Gary's party or Durf's Artprize event, I had the honor of being a guest at local Key West radio station KONKAM as a songwriter. Thanks to Deedee Infinitee and owner Guy DeBoer. Had a fun time there and with my up coming album expected to be recorded with Dan Simpson's Private Ear Studios this summer, it was the perfect primer to get that engine started. Dan Simpson is a great guy and is a joy to work with. I'm excited!

Alcohol libation of the blog would have to be The Doctor Shot of Mt. Gay in a shot glass stethoscope!!!!



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Speakeasy Inn

Well, this week seemed to focus somehow around The Speakeasy Inn on 1117 Duval St. for me. I say somehow because I’d never been there before and by spontaneous draw, on a whim, I thought it was high time I checked out the Rum Bar, which is in The Speakeasy Inn’s first floor. Being a Rum Bar (they have everything else however) I tried a rum I’ve never had before, Zacapa, from Guatemala. Indeed, a beautiful, top-flight rum! Highly recommended. I had it on the rocks with a slice of lime. Perfect!

After I was there for a few minutes, a couple from Orlando came in and sat next to me at the bar, Will and Jenna, a fun couple in for a few days. This is one of the fun things about living in a tourist town. New people are consistently flowing through and everyone has it on their mind to have a great time. I mean, who wants to go on vacation and complain? Seriously. Will and Jenna were no exception to this rule and were a very fun couple to hang out with.

Then, as it turned out, a guy shows up at the bar that they had traveled to Dublin, Ireland with previously. No planning of this rendezvous, it just happened! Welcome to Key West, where stuff like this happens all the time.

There was a marathon this last weekend from Marathon (no pun intended) to Mallory Square, in Key West. That’s 50 miles! My facebook friend, Chuck Hargrove, out of Nashville, is a marathoner and a long-time fan of the island, ran in it. As it turned out, he was staying a block away from me at… you guessed it, The Speakeasy Inn! I met with him and his friends over at Blue Heaven for lunch on Tuesday. His friends were J.P., Nancy, and Holland, all from the Nashville area. Had a great lunch at Blue Heaven, Jerk Chicken and a Southernmost Wheat Beer(s) while enjoying Nashvillians for the second time in a few weeks! Later, I again met Chuck at The Speakeasy Inn, in the bar…. The second time in less than a week I was there, having never been there before. Nice, cozy little bar. Seating maybe ten at the bar, with a few side tables. Recommended!

Well, yesterday the city overwhelmingly approved to allow dogs in open air restaurants! It still must have a second public reading, before being ratified. The Citizen didn’t say when that would be however. No doubt, all the fans of Schooner Wharf Bar are happy today, but will be jumping for joy after the second public reading.

Our beer for the day is “Native Lager”. A very nice all malt beer from Ft. Lauderdale! A very nice medium body beer with a refreshing and quick finish. Great beer for a tropical climate.

The only way to get around Key West sanely, is by bike. Cars are way too much of a pain in the ass to park, pay meters, and subsequent tickets. Bikes are the only way to go. Gives you exorcise, no pollution, and with baskets, you're all set!

Having said that, we do have some fantastic cars both visiting and residing here. Today's Key West Car of the Week is a 1966 Chevy Impala Convertible SS396! Hello!

A rainy day here in Key West today… hummmm… sounds like a good day to walk over to The Speakeasy Inn and enjoy a rum at happy hour…. They have a Real Estate sign on it too. What a fantastic opportunity.

All The Best From Key West!!!



Thursday, May 6, 2010

Key West Songwriters Festival 2010

The Key West Songwriter’s Festival celebrated its 15th year last week and what a great event it was. For those unfamiliar, so many of the songs we hear, are not written by the performers who make them famous. Let’s take “Angel From Montgomery” as an example. When mentioned, the average Joe on the street knows it as a Bonnie Raitt song. John Prine in fact, wrote the song. Up in Nashville there is a very big demand for songwriters. Music row is always looking for a song that will fit an artist and that’s where the… pardon the pun, but it’s irresistible.. un-sung hero’s come into play. J Well, this year those songwriters headed to Key West for their annual pilgrimage where they are showcased. Over 100 came and performed at various venues about town from April 28th through May 2nd. As always, sponsored by BMI. In addition, this year carried associate sponsorship from the Better Angles Publishing Group, as well as Muzak Heart and Soul.

Performances went on all over town from established venues such as The Hog’s Breath Saloon, The Green Parrot, Sloppy Joe’s, San Carlos Theater, to cruises on sailing ships and outdoor venues such as The Southernmost hotel group.

Naturally, with all going on, being able to catch everything is just flat out impossible, as may events are going on simultaneously. Of the events I caught, I liked the Robert Earl Keen show at The Green Parrot quite a lot. Earthy, gritty, and fun! I must say however, that I really liked the outside events a lot as well. The Southernmost Hotel poolside event on Saturday may very well have been my favorite of all. The highlight of the event that day, and perhaps the whole event itself, was Misty Loggins. Misty plays not only from the heart, but also with true fortitude. Not only does she write a great song, but she can make her Taylor sing, on her quiet ballads, yet growl, and snarl with emotion on her more earthy songs, like “Red Georgia Mud”. Keep an eye on this woman. She’s the real deal.

One spot that’s a great place to go late night is The Bottle Cap Lounge during the Songwriter’s Festival. So many of the performers come here for the “ASCAP Late Night Hang”. I was there on Saturday night and it was a virtual open-mic for performers in the overall event. Kudos to ASCAP as it didn’t matter if the performers were ASCAP or BMI writers, they had them all up for two or three songs each. What a great event this was! So many folks got to play in an atmosphere of true friendship. One performer would be playing and, out of the blue, call up a friend in the crowd to help them out on the next song. Even the ASCAP rep who was running the event at the Bottle Cap, got up and sang with one of the regular performers! This was FUN!!! It went on and on like this all night long. All of the performers let their hair down to the point that the ASCAP host got on the mic and asked the locals if this was the wildest thing we’ve ever seen. While it’s clear that he may never have been here for Fantasy Fest, the ASCAP event at The Bottle Cap was clearly a wild event music-wise. A truly fantastic time was had by all and experience I’ll never forget! I only live two blocks from The Bottle Cap Lounge, so heading home was easy to put off! However, I did so at 4:10 am and the place was still packed.

One funny thing was almost at every event I attended; you’d hear a performer or three say something like: “Yeah! It’s good to be here in the Southern most part of the South”
It inspired me, as a songwriter myself, Key West resident, and sworn in Conch Republic citizen, a to write a new song, albeit a bit tongue-in-cheek of course, living up to my Conch Republic oath, “The South, is North Of Here” J

The sad part of the Key West Songwriters Festival 2010 was the severe flooding Nashville went through and what so many of these folks who came down here from there, were heading back to on Monday. Our hearts go out to you and we wish you all the best of fortunes in the aftermath of this national disaster. First and foremost we wish you safety to y’all and your families and likewise to your homes and possessions. Thank you for coming to Key West to share your wonderful talents with us. We’re thinking and praying for you.

“All The Best From Key West!”

Misty Loggins, below, playing her song “Red Georgia Mud” at the ASCAP Late Night Hang at the Bottle Cap Lounge, Saturday night.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Conch Republic Independence Week, USCG, Fried Phone

My phone fried itself. The AT&T Blackberry was under warranty, however AT&T were happier using the $50.00 deductible and charging me the fifty clams on the insurance. The charger input was rusted, although the AT&T store verified it had never been underwater. Hey! I live on an island in the Gulf Stream. Lots of salt in the air and things with electrical connections rust quite easily here. Don’t believe me? Just as Dan Simpson of Private Ear Studios who is religious about treating audio connections with an elixir-spray that prevents corrosion. Dan’s been here 25 years dealing with it, he knows. Knucklehead me, it never occurred that I should use it on my phone. Personally, I feel it’s a design flaw making it out of a metal that will rust, in an atmosphere such as the one we live in here in Key West. AT&T feel differently. Live and learn. Contract is up in fourteen months.

Key West imbibes in more alcohol per capita than any other city in both the Conch Republic and yes, the U.S.A. It’s funny. When I first moved here and got a job, instead of the early morning gab around the coffee machine regarding the ball game the previous night, here it was what bars were hit and the escapades that went on! “Oh man! We hit Willie T’s and I was doing shooters of Jaeger! Then we went to Cowboy Bill’s and there I started with Gossling’s and cola…. This guy comes up to me and I tell him ‘I OWN this town!!!! Then we ended up at Island Dogs where I switched to Mount Gay Rum and we met this guy from Chicago. I swear he must have been in the Mafia….” On a typical morning, that’s what I’d hear when I got in.

Michael McCloud’s “The Conch Republic Song”, which is the National Anthem of the Conch Republic, states speaking of Key West “… where the ladies are lovely and drinking’s considered a sport…”. This statement couldn’t ring more true, in this town. In other places it may be something approaching a taboo to speak about, however in Key West it’s the fuel that drives the economy. I’ve heard that there are 300 liquor licenses on this little two-mile by five-mile island. The Wine/Beer and Liquor trucks heading here from the mainland weigh more than the trucks hauling gasoline here, which are limited to ¾ full, because of weight on the bridges, hence our higher gas prices. Bar alcohol gets cart blanche however.

Because of this, this blog will, from this point onward, have a libation featured!!! Tonight’s feature is Hurricane Reef Pale Ale. Hurricane Reef Pale Ale is a very palatable ale indeed. 100% Barley with Cascade hops from the Pacific Northwest, it’s a full American Ale, with a good body for the Spring weather we’re having currently….

Nights, low 70’s, days low 80’s, and there’s always a breeze. Perfect! The best time of year… perhaps!

Conch Republic Independence Days are at hand! On April 23rd, 1982 the Conch Republic seceded from the United States and the celebration continues to this day. This years events ran from April 16th through the 25th. Sir Peter Anderson, Secretary General of The Conch Republic, is at the helm of the event, as always. Events ranging from “Drag Races”, in which drag queens, in full regalia, run through obstacle courses, all run for the charity benefit of Helpline. Also, there’s the Conch Republic investiture party for the benefit of the Conch Republic Foster Children’s Fund. Pet Strolls benefits the Xena Fund. There’s also a bed race, sponsored by the Fairvilla Megastore. A Parade as well, naturally! With a multi day event, how could they not have a parade? A seven-foot Key Lime Pie in Mallory Square!!! The list went on and on.

Without doubt, in their finest moment, the Conch Republic Navy went into battle against the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sawfish. The Schooner “Wolf”, carrying the Admiral’s Flag of The Conch Republic’s Admiral Finbar, who participated in the original insurrection, 28 years ago, commanded the naval operations. The Wolf, along with John McKean’s Appledore Schooner and several other vessels of the Conch Republic Navy, in addition to the land based Army artillery section, plus a true squadron of Conch Republic aircraft from the Conch Republic Air Force, all took part. Weapons of choice were water balloons, toilet paper, and water cannon. Although it appeared that the Sawfish had The Conch Republic Nave entirely lathered with their water cannon, later at Schooner Wharf the commander of the vessel surrendered his sword to Admiral Finbar and was subsequently conscripted into the Conch Republic Navy, crew and all. A hilarious speech was given by the Coast Guard commander, which had the entire bar in stitches and really imbibed the spirit of Key West and the Conch Republic. Videos below! Who would have believed a commander in the USCG would have such a great sense of humor? Long live the USCG! Long Live the Conch Republic!

Big thanks to Sir Peter for anchoring the event, with a ton of help from lots of businesses and citizens in the community! Thanks to all!

“All The Best From Key West”©

Chris “Boris” Rehm


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

NAS Air Show, El Alamo, Still no dogs at Schooner Wharf

Over the weekend the Key West Naval Air Station, located on Boca Chica Key, just a few miles and two keys up from Key West, hosted their annual Air Show last weekend. What a great show it was as well! F/A 18’s, F16’s, Fat Albert, C117, P51 Mustang, Corsair, T6, …. The list goes on….. oh yeah… The Blue Angles as well! What a great show it was. A day full of adrenalin surges as the jets and planes zipped by. The most emotional for me was the fly by of the current USAF F16 flying wing to wing with the Army Air Corps P51 Mustang of WWII (The USAF was not formed until after WWII). The most thrilling was the Blue Angles. However, the scale of excitement for the entire day was never below an 8.5 on a scale of 10 the entire day, regardless of what was happening at any given time. Hats off and a salute to the Key West Naval Air Station, for extending their hospitality to the public for the weekend!

Meanwhile, back on Duval, it seems that Five Dollar Stores are ramped. Barkers with heavy Israeli accents, stand outside the stores all day long hollering “Evey ting in da store fy dolla”. Speculation on the streets suggest all of these stores are tax write offs for their Israeli owners, who send their kids here to run them, in lew of military service back home. Other’s say they are laundering operations. Who knows if any of this is the case or not, however? Outside 109 Duval, once a bar that Jimmy Buffett cut his teeth on before he became famous, today the Five Dollar Store, an early twenty something barker with a contemporary pork pie hat, suddenly breaks into a silly dance after he does his accented “fy dolla” cry. His friend with him gives him a hi five, as they are trying to impress a passing gaggle of American Beauties. The girls look at them awkwardly, until one says he looks like a complete jackass. They all screech into laughter as they continue down the street. Suddenly, the sound of a radial engine bi-plane distracts the attention on Duval, as a symbol from a by gone era gently floats by in the sky and all is good on the streets of Key West.

Sat in with Bobby D. and Sampson, of Cool Breeze at Robert Douglas’ open Blues jam at El Alamo, Monday evening. Had a blast! Jim Clark was on drums and an unknown harp player sat in as well. It was a lot like being chauffeured around in a limo with those guys! Everything just seemed to care of itself. Nice! Damn good to play electric again too. Big thanks to Frances Lynn Sally Galbraith for taking the great picture as well!

Schooner Wharf still is being pressured by the city, not to allow dogs in. I wrote a letter to The Citizen (the local paper) about it, however they didn’t publish it. The State of Florida has a provision saying that local government may over-ride the state law, which says dogs are not allowed in eating establishments. Like Michael McCloud asked on stage, if those of us with dogs in our homes don’t have any problems, why would things change in an out side eating establishment like Schooner Wharf Bar? I fully concur. Having dogs in bars has been an age-old tradition in the Keys. Who’s the Einstein that’s decided to subject Schooner Wharf Bar to mainland mentality? Who ever it is, they should move back to the mainland and good riddance to them. The question should be left to the policy of the bar/restaurant itself, not some jerk that wants to take the Keys out of the Keys. Next thing you know they’ll want to tear down The Key West Customs House so they can build a high-rise condominium, or perhaps move historic Clinton Square itself in the name of “Progress”. Thinking like this belongs on the mainland, thank you very much… and don’t let the door hit you in the ass when you leave.

All The Best From Key West!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter, C.W. Colt

Spring Break is winding down and the students are headed back to school. Easter weekend was very slow here with the students headed back and families spending Easter together, I imagine. I was at Hog's Breath Saturday and the crowd was marginal. Likewise at Schooner for breakfast, and the same thing.

My buddy Jackson Bunn was in town over the weekend and we caught a Keys favorite, C.W. Colt over at Rick's Key West on Duval, of course. C.W. classifies himself as a "Caribbean Country Blues Master" and that pretty much sums it up. When we first got there he was playing solo acoustic, then Mark, from The Hog Fish, came and sat in with him on percussion. Just a great set all around. This was something way overdue for me. Over a dozen years ago, I met and played many, many times with C.W.'s bass player, Doug "The Alien" Raver, in Homestead, when I lived in Palmetto Bay/Miami. Doug had been knighted by Mel Fisher, the King of the Conch Republic, when he played regularly with C.W. and duly swore me in as a citizen of the Conch Republic, complete with a certificate saying so. After all these years, it was a pleasure to finally enjoy an afternoon of C.W. Colt's great music. It virtually goes without saying we had a great time. As far as C.W. goes, here's a great link where he can describe is music and background far better than I can. Enjoy!

All The Best From Key West!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Louie's Backyard, Alliens, Spring Break Continues

Louie’s Backyard has been a famous, fine dining eatery for decades. Apparently, this last week they had a very boisterous patron, who when the bartender requested him to “keep it down”, demanded to know who sicked the employee on him. According to The Citizen, another patron stood up and proclaimed it was he who issued the complaint. As luck would have it, other patrons likewise became involved in the altercation and it turned into a major fiasco! Reading the report in The Citizen, it sounded exactly like a Three Stooges melee! Imagine the possibilities if the pie cart was within reaching distance! To boot, apparently a lot of guests left without paying their bills as well. Or, perhaps the Wells Fargo armored truck required for paying the bills at Louie’s Backyard, was disenchanted when they saw the police cars there.

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening I was fortunate enough to catch Alliens at both the Green Parrot and El Alamo. Jamiel, Janaih, and Zeph Allen are both brothers and cousin raised in Key West (now living in Virginia) and sons of Din and Woody Allen, core members of the Key West band Survivors. The apples didn’t fall far from the tree. These guys have their own island groove, rooted on Funk, Reggae, and Afro Cuban. On Thursday they completely tore the roof of the Parrot. The crowd, all of whom seemed to be acquainted with their father’s band, was strong and very enthusiastic. Friday at El Alamo, didn’t click as well it appeared. The sound is entirely different, being outside, so they were dealing with a different animal altogether. This may have also been the soundman not clicking with them as well. Friday however, they were on fire once again. Everything was hitting and falling into a serious groove. I had the pleasure of attending this gig with Melody Cooper and Deb Hudson, who witnessed these guys grow up (they’re in their twenties) as friends of their parents. It was a real hoot for them!

Meanwhile, Spring Break continues. It’s encouraging to see so many college students enjoying such good music all around the island.

Key West has an abundance of old Volkswagens. I’ll touch on that in a later blog, however I passed an outstanding Beetle Convertible on Olivia. Hat’s off to the folks who maintain such a beauty!

Sunday was an outstanding day in The Conch Republic and I got an early start. While walking the dogs down Amelia St, behind a solid wooden fence from a resident’s patio, emitted The Allman Brother’s song Jessica. It fit the day perfectly. Bright, sunny, and up beat. We’re off to a good start to the week!


Monday, March 15, 2010

A Fun Week!

Headed up to the KOA Campground on Sugarloaf Key (MM20) to catch The Dave Aaron Band. The KOA Campground is becoming quite a venue for music. Of course, they've always had music there, however it seems that they are focusing on more high profile events there as of late. Even the Miami Herald has done a piece on their musical explorations. I headed up there with friends Sheila, Mark, and John to catch Dave Aaron's band. Dave is an exceptional Country songwriter, as well as a great player/performer based in Key West and he didn't disappoint. The band was rock solid and in a very, remote way, akin to The Doors, as they use the keyboard doubling up as the bass. The Dave Aaron Band can often also be found in Key West on Saturday nights playing The Bull.

Saw my first Spring Breakers there as well enjoying the jacuzzi.

Miami's (Okay, Coral Gables)Albert Castiglia (say Ka STEEL Ya) was playing The Green Parrot Thursday and Friday. Albert recently earned Blues Song Of The Year from The Blues Foundation for his song "Bad Year Blues", edging out B.B. King, no less. This is the type of talent Key West attracts. Albert, of course, has been known over the years as a true virtuoso blistering guitarist. He originally got his professional start with Junior Wells, no less, back around 1997 or so. A credit to Albert's loyalty, to this day he pays homage to his mentor, at every gig Albert covers some of Junior's material. I've seen Albert for over fifteen years and his playing has never ceased to leave everyone awstruck... and it just keeps getting better and better! The one thing that doesn't get the accolades it deserves, is his voice. Albert's voice is exceptional. Over the years his voice has gone in leaps and bounds, from adequate, to good, to very, good, to great, to exceptional. He's worked hard over the years at it and it's paid off with dividends galore.

I brought some co-workers to the show and everyone was spellbound. He tours all over, so if he's in your area, don't miss him!

On Saturday I was a bit late getting out of the gate. I figured I'd ride over to my favorite outside bar, Schooner Wharf and catch a bit of Michael McCloud. I rode by the Waterfront Market, which is one of Wyland's Whaling Walls and to my surprise there was a black on black Porsche 911 Cabriolet, top down, parked there with Wyland's license plate on it. Never saw Wyland though.

Speaking of Wyland, artist Walfrido was in town from Hawaii, being the artist in residence at Wyland's gallery at 102 Duval. Exceptional artist indeed!

When I got to Schooner's at 2:45, the place was just absolutely packed. To my dismay, McCloud was wrapping things up.. he usually plays to 5pm. Nonetheless, I went in for a beer and sat at the bar. A guy next to me had a Jack Russell Terrier with him all alert and hanging at the bar with us. You've got to love a bar that allows dogs!!!

I didn't stay for the band. The drummer had a set up that looked like a jungle gym, and as good as they might have been, I was in the mood for something acoustic. I went over a block to Lands End to the Key West Bait And Tackle Shop. A well kept secret, here in Key West. No music, but true Olde Key West atmosphere! The burn artist Durf was there and the Bait and Tackle Shop had a brand new picnic table. Durf's often there and he saw it as a brand new canvas and started a burn right there and then. The owner,Chris, was grinning ear to ear! Durf is exceptional! I'll have more on him in a future blog. A couple of ice cold beers and Durf and I headed right next door to the Half Shell Raw Bar for some oysters. A sign over the door read "Sorry, No Pets Allowed" and right below it, inside laying peacefully on the floor, was a relaxing dog, tied to her master's chair at the bar.

I love this town!

Blog Picts A

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bikers, Bands, Doug Bennett, and Sir Peter Anderson

As always, an interesting week in Key West! I noticed a lot of motorcycles in town, for one. We always have bikers here, however this was a lot more than usual. Mind you, it wasn't on the scale of the Poker Run in September, but it was about 5 times the usual amount. Turned out most of these folks were here as an excursion from Bike Week, up in Daytona. That's a 400+ mile excursion! Just about all the folks that I met were down from way up north. Maine, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan...ex. A bit cooler then they wished for, but they all agreed it beats shoveling! The Hogs Breath was filled up with bikes as The Jonathan Birchfield Band, out of North Carolina, rocked the place with a four piece that included Drums, Bass, a Telicaster, and an open tuned slide Strat/standard tuned Teli. These guys had a great sound and rocked the joint. Their cover of Statesboro Blues was the highlight for me. Yeah!

Thursday I rode up the street from my place for a quiet beer at The Green Parrot. Well, sometimes the best laid plans go to waste. Waste is the wrong word actually. Just got tossed a bit of a curve ball.. a good curve ball, mind you. When I approached I heard a live Blues band playing with a distinct New Orleans sound. As it turned out, they played blues, but also a bunch of other genres as well. Another four piece unit, The Honey Island Swamp Band. Being a guitar player myself, I naturally gravitate to the lead player. Chris Mule, on lead and slide, played a Strat and did everything so tastefully it was Gumbo for the ears. The Bass player, Sam Price, was funky and quite animated. Not overly animated, but when he played you knew this guy was doing what he loved best and was having the time of his life. Aaron Wilkinson shared lead vocals with Chris Mule and played a Telicaster, acoustic Epiphone, and surprise, surprise, mandolin! The drummer, Garland Paul, had the bayou in his soul and rolled out a rhythm that had the entire place jumping. What a great band! I'm planning on a return visit tonight.

Sticking to the music front, I guess I can announce that I'm preparing to do an album of my own in the coming months! It will be a geographic-specific focused CD. In other words it will be focussed on the Keys with every song. I will most likely use three songs that I recorded at Dan Simpson's Private Ear Studios last summer, Garrison Bight, Live Aboard, and Life On My Terms. Garrison Bight is self explanatory. Live Aboard is based on a fictitious Live Aboard who got tossed out of Boot Key Harbor in Marathon a few years back and Life On My Terms is about my cousin who wanted to move back this way from the mainland. The working title is "Shangai'd and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)". Musical styles ranging from Rock, ballads, Brazilian Bossa Nova, Blues, Funk, Bahamian, and who knows what else? As a songwriter first and foremost, it's an open book of styles and stories awaiting to be un-vialed. It should be fun and working with Dan Simpson is always a true pleasure.

A quick note of appreciation and tip of the hat to Mr. Doug Bennett, for giving the link to this blog's piece on the Best Bars in Key West, on his blog "This Week On The Island". Mr. Bennett's blog is a fantastic weekly overview on the goings on here in Key West. Highly recommended. Thanks Doug!

I met with Sir Peter Anderson, the Secretary General of The Conch Republic, a couple of weeks back. Sir Peter is a treat to share time and space with being both a true intellect, as well as quite a whit at the same time! It's a rare combination when one can stimulate your gray matter and have you laughing as you realize "What he's saying makes a lot of sense!". Anyway, I asked Sir Peter a question I'd meant to ask him many times before, but always forgot about when the time was at hand. Of course I knew that Mel Fisher had been the King of the Conch Republic, but I also knew that since his passing in 1998, there has not been a successor to the throne. So, I asked Sir Peter why there was no new King. His answer was "Well, Mel Fisher is still the King". I must admit, I was taken aback with his answer. However, almost as quickly as I was taken aback, I realized what a great situation this is, from so many angles.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Trop Rock

Regretfully I don't recall who said it, or exactly where I read it, other than it was on a Trop Rock site of some sort. My apologies to the author. What they stated was the following: "I live in the northernmost city in the Caribbean, New Orleans." I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. First because it was hysterical and second, because it was so true, especially from a musical, Trop Rock point of view.

I sit here today writing this blog, as always, from the capitol of Trop Rock music, Key West. I recall stepping out at MOFM festival in 2008 and hearing a Trop Rock band playing in the parking lot of the Hog's Breath Saloon. Everything they were playing was along the lines of Margaritaville, up beat and poppy. Nothing wrong with this, but I later heard other bands following the same, exact formula. What struck me was that what I was hearing was such a slim cut out of a very big pie and that there is such a large, un-tapped horizon in the Trop Rock genre, still to be explored and realized by so many.

This is one reason I laughed so hard when I read the aforementioned quote of the sage poster from New Orleans. New Orleans music has given so much.. for so long, mind you, to the Trop Rock scene, yet so few seem to realize it. I recall hearing Barry Cuda for the first time here in Key West, hammering out New Orleans good old traditional Blues, Boogie Woogie, Rock and Roll and thinking "Wow! That fit's this town to a T!!!" Is it Trop Rock however? Well, if New Orleans is the northernmost city in the Caribbean, it certainly fit's under the umbrella... as well as other genres as well, mind you.

A little over year ago, my friend Gary was doing sound with Dan Simpson at the Blue Heaven, for the womankind charity event and urged me to go. The band playing was a Key West treasure, whom I had never heard, The Survivors. Five bars into the first song I became a believer. Here was a groove, orientated band with a very funky sound, that capitalized heavily on improvisation. It was no wonder these guys have been so popular in Key West for over twenty five years. These guys were hot, like onions, garlic, and pepper sizzling steadily in olive oil on an iron skillet, while the chef laughed in good nature, while taking a swig off a cold beer. This was the complete picture that they were all part of. No one appeared to be the head of the band, they all just followed and fed off one another. The music I heard that evening was a living organism. I wasn't sure where it would take me next, it might take a left, when I expected it to go right. That's what made it fascinating! What I did know however was, This Was A Hell Of A Ride! This was Key West music on the cutting edge, at it's absolute pinnacle.

This was nothing even remotely akin to the music I heard at the Hog's Breath only weeks prior. Yet, that was the beauty of it all. The horizons for this genre of music can be endless. As a songwriter myself, I write songs that fall into many different categories. Ballads, Rock, Southern Rock, Funk, Blues, Caribbean, as far south as Brazilian Bossa Novas, which suggests that Trop Rock influences can run from Rio De Janeiro all the way up through to New Orleans..... and to the south Pacific as well, for that matter.

As I say, there's a very big pie to be had and a LOT of growth yet to be seen and explored.

The link below is The Survivors last November on Higgs Beach, here in Key West doing their song "En Cayo Hueso" (translation: In Key West) in two parts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Best Bars In Key West

To start with, there are always three root viewpoint perspectives on the best bars in Key West. One is the Tourist. Another is the Visitor, and the third is the Local. The Local is self explanatory, however, what is the difference between a Tourist and a Visitor? Complicated, yet simple. In a nutshell, A Visitor is someone who visits Key West and want's to move here when all the ducks are in a row. Maybe a few months, maybe a few years, but it's on the "Bucket List" of things to do. As it's on their agenda, they want to discover the local's bars, so they can get a feel for the lay of the land and be part of the scene. Because of this, many Visitors actually cherish the locals places more than the locals! The Tourist want's to come here, raise some cane that perhaps they can't where they come from, and go back home. The emphasis being on the desire to "Go Back Home".

Bear in mind, that all is good! Also keep in mind that the Tourist will have the desire to go to tourist bars, where as the locals and visitors tend to go to Local's bars. Yes, most bars cater to all, it's just that the percentages can range from 75% local to 0% Local. Many Locals would just as soon have molten lead poured in their ears, rather than go to some of the Tourist bars on Duval St. It could be used as a prison sentence for some. A sort of Devil's Island of the damned.

"Your Honor, I am at the court's mercy and I kindly ask the jury to have me tarred and feathered, then paraded about town for all to see, laugh at, and mock, rather than be sent to Irish Kevin's for an evening! I beg the Court's mercy to start boiling the tar now. Anything but that!"

Of course, be advised that the list below is a list of the best bars in Key West. Also be advised that they are chosen by a local, who, indecently, has no desire whatsoever to be tortured and left to rot on Devil's Island.

1) The Green Parrot - The Green Parrot dates from 1890... or some say 1888. It's a Classic Key West Bar, from the get go. For starters, it's a real bar. There's no food, just Beer, Wine, and Liquor. The staff are real people. You won't get the "Hello, my name is Bubbles and I'll be your server tonight" Bullshit. They won't tell you about any specials, because there aren't any specials. It's a bar. In catering to the local working crowd, there is a Happy Hour however. Live music from all over the country and town Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday afternoons. The best jukebox in town, as well. No sniveling allowed. Drawbacks: None.

2) Schooner Wharf - Schooner Wharf is the best outside bar in town, located right on Key West Bight, off Lazy Lane. Great staff! Key West icon Mike McCloud plays six days a week from noon to five. It's real Key West, so if you don't like hearing the F word, don't fucking go. Music all the time, as well. Food's good too. Great music, fantastic atmosphere, great staff, great view, and you're outside. Hello. Drawbacks: None

3) Finnegan's Wake - Finnegan's is a fun Irish Pub located on Granell St., across from the power company. Irish music brought in on weekends from all over the United States. Best beer selection in Key West, no holes barred. Really! Kitchen open until 2 am. Very good staff. Drawbacks: huummmmm

4) Don's Place - Don's Place is most likely the very last place a Tourist will stumble into. It's well off the Tourist path, for one, located at 1000 Truman St., about 5 blocks east of Duval. A real bar that serves alcohol and no food. Darts, Jukebox, also has an outside Tiki Bar.

5) Hog's Breath Saloon - Hog's best asset... and it's a great asset, is that it has top notch live music from all over the island and the U.S. all day long. Good bar staff too. Drawbacks: Leans a bit on the corporate side

6) El Alamo Bar - A new bar, just off Duval's 200 block. Set up in a large courtyard and well managed by Billy. Music most evenings and a good bar staff to boot. Drawbacks: Still new and trying to find their nitch... but doing that very well!

7) Captain Tony's Saloon - What can you say? Hemingway used to hang out here five out of seven days a week. A woman is buried in the pool room. No food, it's a bar. Holds Florida's oldest liquor license. Dates from.... early 1800's. Woman have been known to take their shirts off and sing with the musicians from time to time. Good bar and apparel staff. Drawbacks: 1) Needs a new week-night manager. Annoying the crew all the time doesn’t work in a bar. 2) Waterless urinals in the men's room. Hello! Don't go in without a gas mask. Who was the Einstein who was suckered into this deal?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bong Hits For Geezers

A very fun evening last night over at B.O.'s Fish Wagon on Caroline St. Barry Cuda's been doing Friday nights for years now. The current line up he's with calls themselves "Bong Hits For Geezers". Of course, the current line up he's played with for years in various configurations. The trio consists of Richard Crooks on drums and Ken Fradley on trumpet, flugalhorn, and assorted percussion.

B.O.'s was stuffed to the gills, pun intended, but also fact, as Bong Hits For Geezers smoked the place on a frigid Key West night. Much of the music played last night had New Orleans as it's root. As many would expect, 3/4 of the cat-calling came from Crooks and Fradley heckling 'Cuda, keeping the crowd in stitches, yet never loosing a beat.... well, once they did... but it was part of the overall ambiance one would expect from a Pianimal gig!

Word on the street is that they've also been recording with Dan Simpson's Private Ear Mobile Recording Studio at a secret location quite recently. They are hoping to have their new album out, perhaps as early as March, if not April!!!

In a nutshell, if you want to see classic Key West, be sure to hit B.O's Fish Wagon Friday evenings from 6 'till 9 and catch "Bong Hits For Geezers"!



Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Chili


Chili is one of those dishes many think we’ve adapted. However, chili is a unique, American dish, originating in the Southwest, with stories abounding of it’s precise origin.

For years I’ve made a chili for the Super Bowl, which should be a national holiday, for even those, like myself, who don’t follow football on a regular weekly basis, usually drop everything to watch the Super Bowl and all that goes with it.

There is no recipe that continues year to year in my kitchen. Everything is based on what’s available and the mood I’m in. Because of my personal health issue with beef fat, I substitute ground turkey, which works great! For those who aren’t afflicted with cholesterol issues, feel free to use ground beef or a mix of beef and turkey. One of the advantages of turkey is that if you start off with, say a pound, after sautéing, you still retain quite a lot of meat, unlike beef which will reduce as much as ¼ . As it is called “Chili” we’ll start off with the chilies themselves.

2 Scotch Bonnet Chilies
2 Tsai dried chilies
4 Jalapeno chilies
4 Serrano chilies
1 dried ancho chili
1 bell pepper
1 ½ lbs ground turkey
4 cloves of garlic minced
3 onions diced
2 stalks of celery chopped
1-2 teaspoons of Herbes de Provance
2+ tablespoons of Worcestshire sauce
2+ tablespoons Steak Sauce
1 can tomatoes
2+ tablespoons of Badia Complete Seasonings
2+ tablespoons of Cajun seasonings
2 shakes of Cayenne powder
2 shakes Trappy’s hot sauce or Tobasco
1 16 oz. Can of kidney beans.
Olive Oil as needed.
2 capfulls of Ol’ Sauer

Dice all of the fresh chilies, onions and garlic and sauté them in the cooking vessel you’re using with olive oil. When done, place in a bowl. Sauté meat in olive oil until brown. Return sautéed vegetables and add everything else including the desired amount of water (how soupy do you want it?). Stir it up and simmer it all day at a very, very low heat until the start of the game. Everyone should have their Super Bowl Chili in front of them at the kickoff!

Lots of COLD beer is also highly recommended. “Is this going to be spicy?” It’s chili. Of course it’s going to be spicy!!!

Notes: If Scotch Bonnet Chilies are not available in your area, use their cousins, the Habanero. They have the same heat, although the Bonnets are more aromatic and flavorful.

Jalapenos and/or Serrano peppers are essential in flavoring the chili.

Ol’ Sauer is a Key West thing. Use lime juice or lemon juice

Improvise on seasonings. Hey, this is Chili! There’s no precise recipe so just have FUN with it!!!!

Lets hope for a great game, great commercials, and The Who at halftime!!!!!!
Whooo Hoooo!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ride to Miami, Chris Flowers, Higgs Beach

Well, it's been an interesting week, to say the least! :-D It's been said that it would take a heart attack or a crow bar to get me off this island, or at least out of the Conch Republic.

Tuesday through Friday I was up in my old home town of Miami as a guest of the University of Miami's Medical Center. A BIG thanks to Dr. Zembrano, Dr. Berger, and especially Dr. Boros, who's here in Key West!

Another big event this week was seeing Sir Christopher Flowers back in Key West! Years ago he was knighted by Mel Fisher, the King of the Conch Republic, Hence, the "Sir" title. Chris is a keyboard wizard and the town's missed him greatly!He'd been away for six months and it's great to see him back! I bumped into him walking the Whippets two days ago and again this morning. He's happy to be back and looks to be focussed in a positive direction! Great to have you back Chris! Oh, it's also his 20th birthday today! Happy Birthday Chris!!!

This weekend is, of course, the Super Bowl! I'm tied to New Orleans, if for no other reason that Cajun and Tooloulou hail from Baton Rouge! Looking forward to a great game! Not sure where I'll watch it however.

In the news there's talk about $300,000.00 "improvements" to Higgs Beach. Stuff like this always scares me, when you get people who want to renovate things. Next thing you know they'll do something sacrilegious and tear down the classic gazebos!!!! I HOPE NOT!!!