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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Key West Bi Plane, The Shot Doctor Bar Crawl, Key West Poker Run

Key West Blues by Key West Chris Rehm

^ Listen to Key West Blues while you enjoy the Blog!^


So, there I was, just doing some things around my place when I get a text from Trop Rock artist Scott Alan, also known as The Shot Doctor, for that marvelous apparatus he invented, of the same name. I knew that Dr. Scott Alan was coming to town on a promotional/charitable event he was involved with, which happened to be a bar crawl. We had talked about it several times in the previous weeks. It was also a benefit for Naval air families stationed in the area. Of course Key West is home to the Key West Naval Air Station, something all Key Westers are very proud of. For me it hits close to home as the Truman Annex living quarters for the service men and women, is just a couple of blocks away from home for me, being located right next to the Southernmost Point.

I look at the text from Scott and it says “Can you fly at one today? Open Cockpit” Hummm… Fly? Is this a vernacular for go out and plow a few down, perhaps in an open air bar? It’s 11 am. I reply “Fly?” I ask. "In the bi plane" comes his reply. What a treat! I met Dr. Shot Alan… er, Dr. Scott Alan at the airport and we went over to Key West Bi Planes where we met Col. Ray Cunanas, son of Key West stunt pilot legend Gen. Fred Cubanas. It should be noted that all of the planes that Fred Cubanas owns, are members of the Conch Republic Air Force.

Col. Ray Cubanas was extremely pleasant and professional. He is also the main pilot for the bi plane rides. I found Ray has the ability to explain everything with an air of freshness to it. Remarkable considering he does this many times a day. He’s clearly someone who loves what he does. The aircraft is in pristine condition and is a 1942 Waco bi-plane. After some picture taking on the ground Scott and I buckled into the front seat and Col. Ray in the rear. He fires up the nine cylinder, air cooled radial engine and what a great sound! We taxi down the airport and then off we go, Up! Up! And Away!!!

All I can say was that the ride was fantastic! We flew down the southern coast of the island and then followed the shore around to the north side passing Ft. Zach and the Truman Waterfront. Over the water on the north side Col. Cabanas took us over the water. What a sight! The water in the Keys is magnificent with so many shades of blue and green. This is undoubtedly the way to see it, bar none! We also flew over down town as well. If you come to Key West, this is a MUST! We also opted for the optional DVD of our flight, which is from two video cams, mounted on the aircraft itself. Our flight was 25 minutes. They also have longer excursions available. It’s a short part of your stay, however the memories will last a lifetime.
For more info check out their website:

As I said, The Shot Doctor, Scott Alan, was in town doing a pub crawl. Now, bear in mind, Scott is a master musician first and foremost. He is a Berkley graduate and back when others were picking up a guitar and learning to strum Margaritaville or, Brown Eyed Girl, Scott was doing arrangements for big band jazz ensembles. Heavy stuff indeed. Scott also came up with his Shot Doctor and often does promotions. This crawl started at The Cork And Stogie, a fantastic little Mom and Pop cigar, beer, and wine establishment on the 1200 block of Duval. From there Scott and his entourage headed over to The Rum Bar in the next block. I met up with the traveling circus at a new bar, Overboard on the 700 blockof Duval. My friends Rick and Cindy Hogan arranged for Dr. Alan to have an I.V. stand, which he hung plasma bags filled with a green elixir. Dr. Alan, along with three quite attractive assistants, administered the potion from the plasma bags into everyone’s Shot Doctors. A great time was had by all and the tour continued to Willi T’s, where Key West icon Barry Cuda was playing, and from there on to Krawls off Duval. Trust me, anyone with a sense of humor and an easy laugh, will LOVE the Shot Doctor!
“Is there a doctor in the house”?
Check out his sites!

This week was also the Key West Poker Run. I missed the actual year for the event this was, however it’s got to be pushing forty. The sponsor of the event Phil Peterson’s Harley Davidson up in Cutler Bay and Miami, started his business right here in Key West back in the fifties. The Poker Run starts there and runs to Key West. The event usually brings in close to 20,000 bikers and the town is always glad to see them. These guys are not afraid to spend money at art galleries, jewelry stores, in addition to the usual bars and guest houses. In addition, they are good tippers, from what I’ve been told from my friends in the service industry.

This Saturday I’ll be part of a new event “ The Key West Musicians Festival” at Smokin Tuna. Lots of folks playing too. If you’re in town, stop by! If not, you can always tune in to their live streaming video cam. I am currently scheduled to go on at 1pm. It looks like I’ll also have my friend Deb Hudson helping me out on a few songs as well! Whippeee!!!!!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Porch & Beer, Smokin Tuna & Music

My Little Island Town by Key West Chris Rehm

^ Click to hear "My Little Island Town" while you read the Blog!^

A very interesting thing started in Key West just over a year ago. The Porch opened on the corner of Caroline St. and Duval, across Caroline from The Bull, in the gorgeous Porter Mansion. One of the owners and publican is Chris Shultz, well known co-author of the bible for anyone even contemplating of moving to Key West, “Quit Your Job And Move To Key West”. The Porch is much more along the lines of a pub, than a bar, per say, but call it what you will. It’s warm and homey,only has one TV (thank God!) and resides within its stately surroundings inside the Porter Mansion. The Porter Mansion dates back to 1838, according to Dave, who was sitting next to me and lives upstairs, so he should know. And yes, you can take your libation out to the large veranda that is in front of the estate and have a seat and enjoy it in classic fashion.

What The Porch is, to be more specific, is an establishment that focuses mainly on, what we call today, Craft Beer. They also have a splendid wine selection that lines the entire wall of their adjacent sitting room. The really curious thing is that they always have a very knowledgeable clientele on hand. Many are locals and many more are visitors to Key West, from all over the globe, who didn’t just stumble across The Porch by accident. These people heard about it and searched it out. Personally, I find this remarkable for such a quaint little place, that only opened in July, 2010! They usually have roughly a dozen or so, craft brews on draft. How many they have in bottles, I’m not even going to guess, suffice to say it’s extraordinary. There is a chalkboard behind the bar that is jam packed with beers on hand, both from the U.S. and around the world. Bear in mind, this is Key West. We’re on the outer fringes. We’re talking the end of the line. It’s one hundred and six miles to get back to the mainland and almost one hundred and thirty to get to civilization, in the form of Florida City’s Last Chance Saloon.

Getting all of this rare beer here must have involved a lot of time and effort in logistics, which can’t be overlooked as well. Hats off to Mr. Shultz, his partners, and the distributors. The staff is exceptional as well. Very knowledgeable and well educated on the products they handle. Equally as important, it’s a fun crew setting a great atmosphere in a great place.

Here is the fascinating thing that seems to be somewhat of a byproduct of The Porch’s success. First off, the owners of The Porch have started looking into the Waterfront Market, with the intention of turning the Wyland painted building into a brew pub. Naturally, there are a lot of hurdles to clear, however it’s progressing as expected. Next, there is Krawl Off Duval, which opened a little over month ago. This is on Southard St., just a few doors east off Duval, as the name implies. Like The Porch, Krawl Off Duval focuses on craft beer. As I understand it, they are hoping to have a large selection of draft beers in the near future.

Also in the works are two more brew pubs, one on North Roosevelt and another on Eaton St. I don’t think these are too far off either. The town’s main home brewer, Jim Brady also mentioned on a KONKAM radio interview that he’s purchasing some beer equipment over on the west coast of Florida. There’s also talk of yet another craft beer establishment opening somewhere around the 600 block off Duval.

It should also be stated that Kelly’s Caribbean Restaurant has been brewing their own beer at their restaurant for at least a dozen years. Frankly however, they’ve always focused on their establishment as a restaurant, more so than a brew pub. Their beer was lacking, in my opinion, however they now have a new brewer there, so I’ll have to stop by again.

In the past, of course Key West had the Key West Brewery, which produced the famous Key West Sunset Ale and the beautiful Sunset Wheat. The brewing company closed its doors years ago, however the Melbourne Brewing Company continues brewing their beers about 330 miles north of Key West. There also used to be a brew pub on the two hundred block of Duval. However that ceased being a brew pub at least ten years ago.
However, the bottom line here is that Key West, like a wild fire, is very rapidly becoming a high quality brew town and unquestionably, The Porch has spearheaded this movement. Hats off to them!

On the musical front, Smokin Tuna is hoppin’! The bar opened a couple of months ago in the former El Alamo location, run and co-owned by former Hogsbreath manager Charlie Bauer. Charlie was there for nearly twenty years and the Hogsbreath has the most live music in town, running from noon until two am seven days a week. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Smokin Tuna is stretching its legs bit by bit. They’ve had a good assortment of quality music acts there thus far, in the pm hours. I was fortunate enough to be invited up to play at Gary Hempsey’s birthday celebration to do a fun version of the Neville Brother’s tune “Yellow Moon”. Thank you Gary!

My friend and a major musical supporter in town, Steve Mellette, also invited me to play there on Saturday, September 24th, for the Key West Musician’s Festival. A fabulous assortment of players will be there including Bill Blue, Chris Cook, Chief Billy, Cory Hayden, Ericson Holt, George Victory, Kenny Fradley, plus a bunch more including the fabulous Deb Hudson and Joel Nelson, who both were kind enough to share their incredible talents on my new CD “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)”. Many thanks to the Smokin Tuna and Charlie Bauer for hosting and Singing Iguana Productions for putting it together! 20% of the proceeds also go to the Sister Season Fund. Smokin Tuna is directly up the street across from Irish Keven's, at 4 Charles St. Saturday, September 24th Noon to Six PM.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

This Isn't The Real World

Well, Labor Day Weekend is upon us. I recall up in the United States the common belief is Summer starts on Memorial day and finishes up on Labor Day. Perhaps the biggest reason I live here is my way of flipping my nose at that philosophy. My late cousin Joe Connolly used to say "There's no reason whatsoever to live in a clod climate!" and I believe he was right! So, here I am in the American Tropics, Key West.

Walking the dogs today I stopped by The Bottle Cap Lounge liquor store, outside the bar. They're great lovers of dogs there and always have treats for the dogs at the walk up window. Chuck was there and we shot the breeze while Tooloulou and Cajun enjoyed a biscuit. While chatting, Chuck used a phrase that a very sage and respected friend, Richard Van Der Mude has used from time to time when describing Key West and the Conch Republic as a whole. When talking about why we live here, he explained "This is not the real world".

A more true statement couldn't have been made. This is a main reason that when visitors come, after they leave, they have to come back. This is why those of us who live here, likewise feel the invisible magnetic draw to return as soon as possible.

I wouldn't dream of arguing that places such as The Grand Canyon, or NYC, or Cape Cod, The Great Lakes, Texas, California.. I could go on, but I wouldn't argue that any of these places are just wonderful places. However, they are The Real World and that's perhaps the most rudimentary difference between Key West and everywhere else. Living in the Conch Republic is almost akin to living in some sort of cartoon world. Yes, the laws of physics still apply here. If someone visiting gets so drunk that they fall down face first on the concrete, they're going to get hurt. The hospital here actually opens up an entire wing for tourist season. Likewise, if a group of visiting tourists rent a fleet of scooters and ride down the street all grinning like Alfred E. Newman honking their horns, guess what? They are still a bunch of jackasses.

However, down here is still a completely different mentality than anywhere else, not only in the U.S., but in the world. People realize it as well. Everyone's mindset changes when they get to the Keys. More time than not, they subconsciously realize that they are no longer in the real world. This is why everyone wants to come back, because this is not the Real World.

A great surprise this month over at The Key West Bait Shop's Live Bait Lounge this month. Every month they have their Beer of The Month and this month they featured "Casa Beer" from Casablanca, Morocco. As the sporting sort, I gave it a try, expecting it to fall on the 3, maybe 4 range of the 1- 10 scale. Surprise! Easily a 7+ and a perfect beer for a hot, summer day. Absolutely stunning label as well. Bottle and label rating is a solid 10. It's absolutely stunning, emitting style and design that captures it's origin perfectly. The Key West Bait and Tackle is located right at Land's End, which also hosts Turtle Kraals and The Raw Bar. Proprietors Chris or Joe are always there and Beccy is usually behind the bar. Stop by for a beer! ... Oh, they have all of your fishing requirements too! :-)