So in 1996 I made my first trip to key West, Florida with my brother in law. It was fun (I just about always will have fun!) but since he didn’t drink much it seemed rather subdued. Except for the girl hitting on me and the naked bartenders. Anyway, in the year 2000 I had an opportunity to attend my annual work conference in Miami. The owner at the time send me down 2 days early and set me up in a hotel right on the edge of Key West for the night and supplied me with a rental car to get there from Miami. Only problem is it was just me. Was really hoping that my wife would come as I enjoy her company and she doesn’t mind when I drink and she doesn’t. Hell with it, I am gonna have fun!
I get to the airport and I get my rental car. It is a Mustang convertible, just like I had last time. Hmmm. So I keep in mind what happened last time with the alligators while driving thru the swamp and keep my speed down to the limit. The trip down was free of alligators. I tried to stop at the same rundown bar we did last time, but I couldn’t find it. It looked as if several of them had been torn down. Or perhaps blown down from any of the lovely tropical storms that had battered the area the last few years. I did find one still open with several cars and boats so I stopped for a beer. It was pretty much the same as last time. A run down building with an owner/operator who was just passing time. Met a couple there maybe a few years younger than me who were also going to Key West for a few days. We chatted for a bit, had another beer and then said ‘hope to see you there’ to each other. Back on the road I went!
I get to the hotel and I wasn’t kidding. it was right on the beach and I had an ocean view from my room. There was even a pier leading off into the water right outside the hotel. Very nice! Well I am in the mood for food and booze and I only have the one night. I have to check in the next night at the conference so I have the night and late morning to sleep off whatever hangover I get then I have to get moving. So I go down Duvall Street until I get to Margaritaville, which is about as far down as you want to go. There is not much if you go farther down the street. Food wasn’t the best last time but what the hell, gotta start somewhere. So my plan is to get food and a beer or three, then to have a drink in every place down the street on my way back to the hotel. So sit down and after a 20 minute wait for a server I place my order. The beer shows up right away but 20 minutes later, no food. I just ordered a burger, shouldn’t take that long. I look around and can’t see my server anywhere, so I ask a different waitress if she could check on my order. 10 more minutes and my beer now empty, still no food or server. So I left. Free beer! Woo hoo! I went across the street to a place called Sharkbit Brewery and have a burger and beer within 5 minutes. It was so good I had another beer, and then began my journey up the street.
One of the bars I stopped at was called Rumrunners. It had a wall full of slushie machines that were all alcohol filled and quite tasty. I had a 151 rum punch drink and took it out with me on the street. I’ll come back here later, this tasted good! I do a little people watching as I am enjoying my slushie drink and decide to try and find the clothing optional bar I found last time with my BIL. I wandered around to where I thought it was but couldn’t find it. I did notice that many of the bars seemed more contemporary instead of the guy and a guitar on the stage type of place. I could hear dance music pumping out from many of the places I walked by. I stopped in several but only stayed for my one drink as the dance-type of music just wasn’t what I was looking for. In the words of Phil Collins, I Can’t Dance.
After a string of dance places I stumble, literally as the sidewalk was cracked, upon a place that had 2 guys only on a stage playing. So I go inside and enjoy the show and beer for a while. This place was also multi-storied so I was thinking perhaps I did find the old place after all, but the layout and location was all wrong. However me being me I go exploring the other floors. I grab my beer and go to the elevator. Second floor I get off and all I hear is the thumping of dance music. I see people dancing and it just isn’t what I want. Back in the elevator I go. Top floor is a floor, not a rooftop and as I step off the elevator I notice striped caution tape on the floor in about a 10 foot box around the elevator doors. there is a couple standing in front of me just looking out into the crowd so as I step forward I see what the deal is. You guessed it, nude bar. Apparently you weren’t allowed out of the taped area with anything on except shoes and socks, if desired. There were lockers off to the side for a quarter each that you could stash your clothes in, and from what I could see inside, many people did just that. After a minute or two a waitress (very naked and very busty) came over and asked me if I enjoyed what I was seeing. Without staring at her I replied that I was enjoying the sights when I was told that while it was OK that I stood there for a moment or two they ask that you either get naked or get moving. I chose to move so when the elevator came back I bid the naked denizens farewell. More bars to find and alcohol to drink!
As I exit that last place I realize that I am once again by the slushie place, so I go back in and have yet another 151 rum slushie. Can you tell that I liked those? I hung around for a short while and them went back out on the street to people watch and search out my next bar. A few buildings down I come across a place with the whole front open and a 3 person band playing. I finish my slushie and go on inside to grab a beer and enjoy the music. I manage to find a place at the bar and while listening to the music the guy next to me strikes up a conversation. Within about 5 minutes it is clear he is trying to sell me some drugs. Not to be a prude but other than alcohol, I don’t really do those things. Never smoked anything and only did speed once because someone slipped it into my drink on me. If YOU want to do them, have at it. I’m pretty libertarian about that. However in this instance, I just didn’t want to be around that so I excused myself and went to a different area. I am leaning against the wall there when these two guys who were sitting at a table motioned for me to sit down. It was a 4 person table and just two of them, so we shook hands and I bought a round of beers. I can’t remember their names but they were from Atlanta and staying there all week. We drank for about an hour or so, drank many beers and talked when we could, they seemed like nice guys. During a break in the music one got up to use the restroom and the other one suddenly got a bit closer to me. He leans in as if to talk to me in a lower voice then puts his hand on my leg and tries to kiss me. Now, I may have done some different stuff in college but that’s between me and whoever I was with. That is not my thing so I backed away and just said ‘whoa there, not for me’. He sat back up and seemed very hurt, but didn’t say anything. His buddy came back a few minutes later and seeing the look on his friend’s face just looked at me and said “so, no threesome tonight?”. I just said no, not tonight. I finished my beer, and then I left. Just didn’t feel right sitting there when they could be trolling for other guys. What a weird bar this was. So I left.
It was starting to get late, and I was a bit toasty. And by a bit I mean a lot. So what do I do? Yeah, I go back to Rumrunners for one more slushie drink. I get my drink and head towards the back where they had a few pool tables and dart boards. I am watching a dart game when I hear a woman’s voice scream out “MY NEW FRIEND!!!!” and then all of a sudden I am being hugged from behind by a female with obviously large breasts. They are like points of heat on my back. A moment later I see the guy from the couple I met on my way in. Once I am released I see that it is his wife who had hugged me. We shook hands and talked some, and I joined them in a few games of pool. My one slushie turned into 2 or 3, I lost count, as we played pool and I started regaling them of my evening so far. The bad service, nude bar, drug seller and the aborted gay threesome made for some interesting laughs. By now we were sitting on one of the lounge couches in the back. After I relayed the last story the guy asks me if I turned it down because there was no girl involved. I chuckled a bit and said ‘yeah, I tend to like women’. He then looked at his wife and said “How about one woman?” WTF is going on here? I think Sin City now has a rival in that department. I just thank them for the offer but take my time leaving, as I am pretty damn drunk by now. Eventually I grab my still full slushie and head on back to my room. I have to check out by 10 or so and it is a 3-4 hour drive, probably longer if your head hurts like I know mine is going to. Thankfully check-in day for the conference is nothing but a welcome party. With more alcohol, of course, but this time FREE.
It is near closing time for most places so the streets are filled with people in conditions like mine. People are bumping into everyone and everything. I am just taking my time, trying to not spill my drink. On my way back I pass a few panhandlers, 2 ladies walking by topless (one of them old enough to be a grandmother) and a blind guy with a guide dog. Or at least pretending to be, as I am sure I saw him smile when the topless ladies walked by. I get to my hotel only to realize that I walked the wrong way, and am at the hotel I stayed at years before with my BIL. DAMN this is gonna be a long walk back. I honestly don’t remember the next 20 minutes or so. One minute I am swearing at myself and the next I am standing outside my actual hotel. Oh, and my drink is almost empty. Time for bed.
The next day was uneventful, at least in Key West. I managed to wake up and check out on time, although I didn’t leave yet. I wandered out on the pier and just sat there healing up,enjoying the sights and sounds of the surf. Drive back was clean and I turned in the rental car without hitting any alligators. So, my impression of Key West on the second trip? I am not sure I would ever go there alone again, or if there with my wife, ever leave her alone. The booze was plentiful and the people friendly enough, but it was pretty weird. I am not a prude by any stretch of the definition, but with just my experiences there, the place has to be crawling with a whole host of things you just don’t want to catch or bring home. If you go, protect yourself. And watch out for the 151 rum slushie drinks. They pack a punch…