Friday morning, we were up before dawn for our drive to Key West. Richard drove his van with artwork to sell. Alice (Danielle) and I took my car. We had collaborated to create cd's for the trip so we had an interesting audio background while we watched the scenery and talked. Alice has been away at college since August, so we had no shortage of conversation topics.
As the sun was coming up, we were driving the Overseas Highway, which hops, skips and jumps the islands that make up the Florida Keys, until it reaches the End of the Road, Key West.
We made the trip with only a couple of short stops, to take pictures and buy sandals. We arrived at the Casa Marina Hotel before noon. Now, "The Casa" is arguably the finest hotel on the island. It was built in 1926 by Henry Flagler, and has been completely renovated in the past year. The property includes the most extensive private beach in Key West, two swimming pools, and all the amenities you would expect from a luxury resort. In short, it is not at all the type of place I would expect to find the Bertocci family. It is only because I happen to work for the company that owns this hotel, and they have an unbelievably low employee rate, that we can afford to stay in Key West at all. At regular prices, we can't even afford to stay at the youth hostel.
When we lived in Key West we used to make fun of the tourists who we saw looking out of the windows of the hotel--we thought they were stupid because they were in their rooms instead of out in the town, seeing the sights, soaking up the ambience. But now I have more sympathy for them. It is very seductive, the room, the balcony, the private beach, and so on. It's easy to let the time slip by and miss out on the chance to tour around the island.
We called a friend and went to lunch and then spent some time at the beach. By late afternoon we were ready to head to the Sunset Celebration. The week before Christmas is not an especially busy time for the Mallory Square artists and performers, and in fact many of the regulars were not working. We saw our old friend Jimmy Brogdon. He designs and makes glass jewelry that he sells at Mallory Square and at some shows around the country. This is something he began just a few years ago. His main career was as a professional photographer. He was the photographer at our wedding, and for several decades he took all the school pictures for the students at public schools in Key West.
Alice ran into some pirates at Sunset, and they invited her to be their date at the annual Cultural Preservation Society Christmas party later in the evening. We had already made plans to attend the party--in fact, I went to it last year, too. It's a great way to socialize with the sunset folks when they are not working and are all in the same place at the same time. We had a great time and came home at a reasonable hour.
...and it's still pretty after the sun goes down, too.
Saturday, it was more of the same--visiting, sunning, touring around on our rental bikes. Saturday night the whole family had dinner at the New York Pizza Cafe--outside in the courtyard, with the parrots and the roosters. After dinner, Alice decided to see what the nightlife was like, so she set out at about 9:00 and wasn't heard from again until 3:30 a.m. Because she is not 21 yet, she had to use her diplomatic skills to gain admittance to the clubs downtown--working within strict constraints that preclude her from lying or using a fake ID. She was pretty successful. At the 801 Bar, she found her way to one of the owners of the bar, told him her story ("I'm 20, I don't drink, I just want to dance and see the show") and he escorted her to the upstairs room where the drag show was happening, introduced her to the bartender and waitresses: "She can't drink, don't sell her any alcohol." Alice also made friends with some of the performers and one of them drew a big martini glass on her upper arm with the circle and line through it:
After the drag show, she talked he way into a techno dance scene at Aqua and then...well, let's just say, she had a very good time, didn't do anything she couldn't tell her mom about, and got back safe. The 'rents, meanwhile, stayed in the room and watched The Wizard of Oz on television. We cried when Mrs. Gulch took Toto.
Sunday morning we got a late start, had brunch at Camille's, and drove back home with only two pit stops. Richard worked Saturday and Sunday mornings at Big Pine Flea Market and arrived home about an hour after we did.