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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