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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hemingway Days and the Weather

^ Listen to “Life On My Terms” while you read the blog! Hemingway certainly lived on his own terms!^

A great misconception about Key West is how hot it gets in the summer. This year as I write this, the outside temperature is 86F/30C. I have only seen it hit 90 (32.2C) once this year so far, though in August I’m certain it will top that. Having stated that, it’s been over 100 (37.8) all up the east coast of the U.S. this summer. New York, Washington D.C., Raleigh, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, you name it, they’ve all been sweltering, with temps stretching as high as 106 (41.1C). The rallying cry is “Come to Key West!!!” to cool off! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Summer is one of the best kept Key West secrets!

Why is it cooler here? Key West is positioned perfectly to reap the benefits of the classic Trade Winds. There is almost always a breeze here and that belies the fact that we sit closer to the equator than anywhere else in the continental U.S. It also works the other way in the winter, where Key West is the only frost free city in the continental Unites States. What a place to live!

Out weather patterns are consequently quite different from the mainland as well. Here we are “Swimming in that Ol’ Gulf Stream” as the song “The South” says and for the last month, or so, we’ve had rain almost every day it seems.

Most of the time, rain in the Keys blows in, courtesy of the aforementioned Trade Winds, lasts an hour or two, then blows out, back into a nice day again. However, we’ve gotten an amazing amount of rain this summer; quite to the contrary of the drought they are having on the mainland currently.

Fun stuff going on here in the Conch Republic this summer!! Summer is the best kept secret in Key West, first off because of the aforementioned weather and second because of some of the great events. This weekend we had the thirty second annual Hemingway Days, which includes the Hemingway lookalike contest, held at Sloppy Joe’s Bar. The numbers vary between one hundred and twenty and one hundred and fifty men, who all look exactly alike, descended on Key West! All of these men look like Ernest Hemingway in the late portion of his life and likewise, dress the same as well, in khaki shirts and shorts!


I attended for the first time this year and proceeded to laugh my ass off! What a surreal situation! They also do an auction and raise money for charities. This year they raised over $25K! Great stuff indeed!

In the contest itself, these 150 contestants go in groups vying for the coveted title of the best lookalike of the year. The winner wins absolutely nothing and the competition all in good fun! Each contestant gets to do a little speech, sing a song, read poetry, or what have you. Everything being a fun, positive vibe!

I met my friend Cindi Hogan there on Friday and on Saturday for the finals I again met Cindi and also my pals Wasabi Metcalf, Kristie Metcalf, and Rachel Siegel, who were an integral part of my CD cover as well. Wasabi had sliced his thumb really well a few weeks back with a power table saw. Consequently, he was sporting a bandage with a little picture of Hemingway, made by Rachel plus, a little drink umbrella. Rachel also had more of the thumb bands for the rest of us. Not sure who gave them the name, Wasabi, Rachel, or Christie, but we called them “Ernest Thumbingway” :-D

On a side note: I was on the phone before Saturday's contest started with my friend Jai. Jai had told me she just bought a boat and when Wasabi heard that, felt he needed to talk to her, so I gave him my phone. He stepped outside and was gone for a while. I finally saw him back texting lewd, albeit humorous comments to my friend Marc Hollander, who seemed quite confused regarding these things that "I" was saying! HA HA HA! Welcome to Key West!


Chris' music is available at iTunes, CDBaby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio. Search "Key West Chris"

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Marvin Key

^listen to “Rainy Day” while you read the blog^

It’s a rainy day here in Key West, as I write this on July 10th. It’s been raining a bit this last week, as a matter of fact. Bear in mind that rain in the Florida Keys usually blows in for an hour or two, then blows out. On Friday, June 29th, I went out with my friends, Rick and Cindi Hogan to Marvin Key. That was before the rain hit. Beautiful day! Rick and Cindi live 23 miles up the Keys in Cudjoe Key, so we’re not talking Key West, but rather another Key within the Conch Republic (which stretches to the Last Chance Saloon, in Florida City, btw). We left on this adventure with our friend Jeff Jackson, as well as Rick and Cindi’s dachshund Odie, plus, my two whippets, Cajun and Tooloulou. This was something that we’ve been talking about doing for quite a while, however our schedules finally fell into the same light and off we went. We dropped Rick’s boat in at the Sugarloaf KOA ( a great campground, with an excellent bar, by the way!) and off we went.


(Leaving out of the KOA. This is the old bridge, which is over 100 years old)
The ride out to Marvin Key is a good boat ride. I think I recall Rick saying it’s about a dozen miles or so west, and no, there are no roads that go to Marvin. It’s on the water or nothing. What beauty too! The Keys themselves are some of the most beautiful places on earth. Plus, as we motored out, we were constantly seeing cormorants diving into the water for their lunch. The cormorant is an amazing bird as it dives in one place, swims underwater after its prey, then pops up someplace entirely different. I recall seeing them for the first time with my pal Kerry “Gonzo” Dwyer when we were hanging out on the old Bahia Honda Bridge, back in our early twenties. This was before they cut it, just after it was closed. We were about five or six buttresses out looking at the Atlantic and saw these cormorants diving in and coming out about one hundred yards away! We were both amazed and flabbergasted!

(Old Bahia Honda Bridge)

Seeing those cormorants diving in on our way to Marvin Key was certainly a good omen I felt!
As I mentioned, it’s a long ride out there, but a very, very beautiful one indeed! One of the things Rick mentioned was that it’s also a very shallow ride out. Because of this, as well as my view of the crystal clear water, I’d often ask how deep it was. Rick would check his depth finder and quite often it was two or three feet. This was also in the channels. Off the channels it could be significantly less than that, in places. What this all translates to are two significant things:
A) Only small boats can get there
B) The pilot of the boat needs to know the area well
Rick’s been going there for years and knows the waters like the back of his hand, plus his boat is the perfect size to navigate the waters.

When we arrived there, there were about two or three other boats already there. The other boats left about a half hour after we arrived however and we had the entire area to ourselves! Marvin Key was unlike any other Key I’ve visited, thus far. It was low tide and had a fabulous beach. The dogs were having a blast as well exploring the area and simply hauling ass on the beach. Whippets are the fastest accelerating dogs in the world; zero to full speed (about 40mph/65kph) in three strides. Watching them fly across the sand was a thing of beauty that left us all in awe!

We had a floating cooler with us and we were all just hanging out, drinking beer, listening to music, and having an incredible day! After about an hour, I took off exploring the island with the whippets. What a great time we had! When we got back I re-joined Rick, Cindi, and Jeff and sat in the water enjoying ice cold beers on a beautiful, sunny, 89 degree (31.7C) day. A Blue Herrin was standing in the water at the edge of the key next to us, for over two hours!

I don’t know how it first happened, but the next thing you know, Cindi’s bikini top came off! :-O Rick then pulled the side string off her bottom and that was gone next… :-D Well, Cindi shouldn’t be the only one naked, so before you knew it, we were all sitting in the water naked, drinking beer, just as normal as can be. Needless to say, there was a lot of laughing going on!

Got a good sunburn that day, but it was worth it! What an incredible experience! A big thanks to Rick and Cindi for taking myself and the hounds out! We decided to do it again on the following Wednesday, July 4th!

The July 4th outing was also an adventure, if there ever was one! When we left for Marvin Key is a beautiful day. If Friday had been a ten, July 4th was an 8.8. Again, the ride out to Marvin Key was breathtaking! It never ceases to amaze me.

As we expected, July 4th being our national holiday, when we arrived at Marvin Key there were a group of boats already there. It’s say a dozen to fifteen. We expected more as the day went on. Rick decided wisely not to put on any music, as someone else already had something going. Myself having a musical ear, there’s nothing worse than two or more stereos playing different music at the same time.

We had a very, very big full moon the night before and when we arrived, unlike last time, it was high tide. After a bit Jeff and I took the dogs ashore. This was a bit of a chore. The beach that was there a few days back, was now four feet of water. … a.k.a. well over the dogs heads. It was a bit of a trek, but we finally got to dry land. After about a half hour we heard thunder and headed back.

Upon arriving, Rick and Cindy informed us of a waterspout that had just cruised by! For those unfamiliar, waterspouts are a tornado on the water. Ours are nothing like those in say Kansas, but nevertheless, you don’t want to mess with them. This was a minor one for here, but even so, you don’t want to be in it’s way! Rick took a video of it on his phone and up loaded it to you tube for your viewing pleasure! Thanks Rick!

Next came the rain. Rain is an understatement, if there ever was one. This was a deluge which lasted at least an hour and a half with 45mph(73kph) winds. All we had was what is known as a Bimini top on the boat. The dogs were freaking out and everybody was getting drenched with the intense storm. We noticed we were dragging anchor too. In a lull, where it was reduced to pouring buckets of rain, Jeff pulled the anchor and Rick powered us back. Cindi meanwhile had gathered her maternal instincts and was covering the freaked out dogs with a blanket. Needless to say, the storm picked up again. This was one of the most precarious storms I’ve ever been in my whole life. It’s not like we could go back. We were twelve miles (20Km) away from civilization and we just had to ride it out.

I couldn’t use my camera during the storm, obviously however I did get a few shots as it was approaching.

Storm Approaching
Storm Closing In

Finally, after at least an hour and a half, the storm subsided. Despite the storm, I held on to my Presidente Beer throughout… at one point actually replenishing it once or twice. One has to keep their priorities! Like the previous voyage, we were caring a good supply of beer; Presidente, Caribe, and Corona. There are some who think I’m a beer snob. In actuality, I’m not at all. What I am is an authority on beer, of which there is a large distinction. A beer snob will drink a particular beer, in spite of themselves. They’ve educated themselves into stupidity and lost all common sense. The reality is, there are beers for every occasion. Here we were out on a boat, on a hot summer day in the Keys. The beer snob would drink a Magic Hat #9 out here. That’s a lot like wearing a wool coat to this occasion. What you want is a beer that is refreshing out here and the beer that we brought was a solid ten for the situation. Ice cold too.

The rest of the day was a major improvement. The sun came out, the tide receded and we continued where we left off before the storm. No, we didn’t get naked this time… other folks were around, but we had a blast for the rest of the day and can’t wait to go back!

Back in Key West we’ve had a lot of rain since, as well. 2” on Sunday and it’s rained a bit every day. However, rain is fun in the Keys…. So long as you’re not 12 miles out with 45mph winds! I certainly gained a bit more character however, truth be known; I loved every second of it!