It is 6:30 on a Friday evening and I’ve found myself in Key West.
Do the math.
There are places we all hold dear. They are not our homes, they are not familiar places. But they are locations we keep coming back to. Places we love to share with others.
As I get older, I hear about this more often from people. Key West is one of them. Others talk of the Aleutian Islands. There are various cities in the Eastern Block that come up a lot as our friends share with us liquor that we can’t pronounce, or drink, at whatever random house party we have found ourselves at. All places they fell in love or had an amazing fifth drink or the conversations that changed their life that you weren’t privy to.
I haven’t been to Florida since I was seven years old. A piece of me knew that coming back would involve burying a life, so I did what I could to avoid it. My introduction to the idea of the Keys came from Will McKeen’s fantastic book Mile Marker Zero, a moveable feast of a book of all the personalities that crossed paths down here.
In every city, there is the tourist strip. The place not too far from where the cabs let you out. The places that seem familiar for some reason (hint, they are the applebees of your neighborhood, relocated) and everyone seems resoundingly friendly (hint: they want your money), but offer little to no merit of the places that you might visit. Everywhere I go, the trendy coffee shop looks the same (minimalist, but the joe is fine) and all of the high-end restaurants have a cookie cutter menu of the last high-end restaurant I went to.
All of these places have the pockets. Hell, the locals have to drink somewhere. For every tourist who is paying out the nose for the right to be drunk in public, there are two people charged with the task of babysitting them, cleaning up after them, and making sure they leave a favorable review.
I pack the grey t-shirt and a pair of jeans I haven’t washed in a week (I wear them on the plane, too, for extra patina) and settle in whatever empty barstool I can find and hope to make enough of a friend for the next few hours.
Writing would be great if it weren’t the only thing I knew how to do.
I publish as much as I can, you’ll just have to wait for the rest.