Monday, January 6, 2014

KEY WEST



Here is a one minute break from the cold.   Hope all are warm and safe as Ion flexes its muscle by messing with our thermometers. 


This scene is one of my rewards for  being an early riser. Most of my solo beach mornings while at our condo on Marathon Key were extremely pleasant but rather unspectacular. 
Instead of the sun putting on a show, it usually just got daylight. Finally, this was my reward for hanging in each morning. Viewed while laying in a hammock on the beach enjoying a balmy morning--- I cropped out my feet. A perfect start to a special day.


Key West

Finally the day arrived that had been a major purpose for my trip to Florida.  Revisiting my ancestral home of Key West was high on my bucket list. My sisters and I did not become family till I was a junior in high school so Key West had no childhood memory value for them. They came with me basically to support my memories and to see the sights. I won't ever forget that gift they gave me by making my return home so easy, fun and shared. 


I can truthfully say that some of my best childhood memories occurred in that small town.  Of course 64 years ago, Key West was a different place than it is today. It had few tourists, a huge Navy presence and was not nearly as commercial as it is today. 

As a child,  I rode my pony on the beaches, swam in the clear waters and hand line fished from a row boat where a catch of 20 Grunts and Yellowtail  in an hour was normal. I enjoyed my only era of being "most popular" (I peaked early), and fell in love with my first "steady beau" as only a 10 year old can. It was an idyllic life for a youngster.

Key West is no longer that childhood paradise as those of you who have visited the town know.  It has turned into a carnival town but beneath all the tourist trappings, I still saw glimmers of my happy past.



I spent many happy hours on that porch.

We visited my grandmother's house where I lived as a child.  I had hoped to be able to go inside but no one was home. Interestingly, my grandmother sold that home for $12,000.  The last time it sold on the market, it garnered over 800 thousand dollars. My grandmother had rented the upstairs apartment to Ernest Hemingway while his home was being worked on which adds a bit to its historical value.

Click on this  link if you want to see what that ridiculous amount of money will get you in Key West today. Not a whole lot. You are buying location.  Oh if we only had foresight.


We parked at my old home and walked to Duval Street, the main street of Key West. That street is the lure for most tourists.That is where the shops beckon and the unusual gather.  

Not long into our walk, we saw a performer, carrying his costume,and staggering down the street. He was either stoned or bombed and it was well before noon. 


Right in front of me, he dropped his purse and his boa was precarious. I felt badly for him and was going to pick his purse up for him  but a closer look made me stop. He was teetering badly. Drunks are protected from harm when they fall-- old ladies are not, especially if the drunks land on top of them.  I was coming off a bad back and didn't want to be smushed by a tall dude, so I pulled back, unwilling to test his balance. 


We left him teetering and went into a store. When we came out,he was sitting upright on the sidewalk, leaning against a pole. He was stony eyed  but now had all his paraphernalia in hand. Not sure if he was helped down by someone strong or fell down but his problem was solved. He seemed content to enjoy his hallucinations from that view point. We moved on. 


I was delighted to find that Key West, like Hawaii, has free roaming chickens.   



I do love chickens and was pleased to note they were all handsome and appeared prosperous.
We had an amazing lunch at a French cafe.   My niece Jill had instructed her Mom to buy lunch for me while in Key West. The meal was so good that I have tried to and darn near succeeded to repeat that same dish here at home.

My version of the blackened chicken, baby spinach,goat cheese, candied walnuts, cranberries, and chives with a light raspberry vinaigrette. Perfect!!  Thanks again Jill.

I also got to visit the busts of a several of my ancestors near Mallory Square. There were several cousin's heads displayed but the most prominent was my multiple great grandfather, William Curry.


 William became Florida's first millionaire, if not by the most honorable of means.
Among other things, he got his start as a "wrecker".  Key West was, in the early days, a huge port of entry for the US.  Wreckers were those who came to the aid of ships that had  run aground on the many reefs surrounding the keys and claimed salvage.  This "salvage" resulted in their being rewarded  with as much as 50% of the ships cargo, a very lucrative pursuit . Family legend is that William knew when and where they would wreck as he hired the boat captains to deliberately run them aground on the reefs surrounding the keys. True or not, history has forgiven him. 
A favorite wrecking legend my mother loved to tell involved a minister who was conducting a sunrise service on the beach. The minister saw a ship floundering on a reef and quickly said,"We shall all bow our heads in prayer." As all bowed their heads, the minister jumped into boat and sped towards the ship to claim
salvage.  It was that lucrative

Sadly, William's millions didn't make it as far as my generation. My mother, as a young woman, was the last to enjoy any part of his wealth.

We ended our day around sunset at Mallory Pier where the sword swallowers, tight rope walkers, jugglers, trained cats, etc gather to perform. By then, we were pretty worn out and called it a day. My quest was satisfied. 

I can only say my trip "home"  to Key West was a huge success. Childhood was revisited, sights that invoked warm memories flooded my heart, all the while being accompanied by fun and willing companions.  Thank you Charlene and Jan, you went above and beyond. 

Did you ever go "home" again??   Was it a happy occasion or a disappointment?



39 comments :

  1. What an intriguing ancestry you have, and what fun to be able to go home again.
    I don't really have a foundation home to go back to. The places I keep in my heart though are both of my grandparents houses- the smells, the memories, the photos I have...all keep those two places alive in my mind. They are the only "homes" that stayed constant for me, because we moved every three to four years in the service.

    Love, love, love that morning shot!

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  2. Visiting the busts of your ancestors must have been an amazing experience! I would love to go to Key West someday.

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  3. I have never been to Key West, so I enjoyed my virtual tour along with you. What a childhood you had! And no, I can't go home again, because I grew up everywhere as a military dependent, and none of the places I lived exist any more. Loved this story.

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  4. Sounds and looks like it was an excellent trip. No I have no desire to revisit where I grew up as a child. I didn't enjoy it the first time around, and so I wouldn't want to go back and revisit again, I think it could just open a can of worms.

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  5. Goodness, you have such an interesting lineage. Sounds like an amazing walk down memory lane and then some. Thanks for sharing such a great personal adventure. I just love how you tell a good story. Oma Linda

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  6. You do have some colorful ancestors! Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. The morning sunrise is breathtaking.

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  7. What an interesting tale. I grew up riding horses but not on a beach. That would be fun. Roosters do thrive on their own in warm environments. I have never seen a sick one. You have an interesting heritage.

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  8. What an interesting post, especially the family stories. Having never been to Florida nor likely to I really enjoyed reading it. RE: going home again ... no, ditto what LL Cool Joe wrote.

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  9. Love reading about your childhood and this wonderful return. That porch looks like a grand place to play as a kid.

    Your sunrise photo is absolutely spectacular. Love those warm crepuscular rays.

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  10. WOW That was interesting. You were lucky as a child to have lived there with your grandmother. That is so intriguing that Hemingway put his vibes in her house. I wonder if JJ will know that.... he's such a fan of Hemingways. I know he's said in his posts that he's visited Hemingways house in Florida. I would have liked to have known Fl and Key West before all the tourists. My husband was always there for spring training and said the road to Key West was all crushed cocino (is that spelled right?) shells. The chickens are a nice touch. I want a couple chickens if I can get someone to build a little chicken shelter for winter.

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  11. I've gone home again to several homes. Always interesting, but usually somewhat disappointing and kind of melancholy.

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  12. I love those glimpses of "Old Florida"

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  13. Loved reading this. I like Key West very much. I wish I could afford to go stay a month or so. I stayed at Bahia State Park and drove on in to Key West... before, I die ... I would like to stay right smack dab in the middle of town ...

    I can only imagine how wonderful it was for you to be a child ... in Key Wsst... wow

    cold enough for ya here? lol... man!

    coming back to Arkansas was coming home and I stayed... go away in spurts but always come back

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  14. You will know how much I love this post since I am SO much into Family History. So glad that you got to go 'home'… What fantastic memories you have. Too bad though that so many things have become too commercialized. Gatlinburg is that way. It used to be a sleepy little mountain town… NO MORE.

    I love going home --and although I miss seeing my childhood home as it was, I do appreciate the fact that people love that home and have renovated it and are taking good care of it.

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  15. I've never been to Key West but I'd like to visit it one day and your pictures make me more anxious than ever to see this spot.

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  16. That is a perfectly beautiful shot of the sunrise! I don't feel like I really ever left home if you consider home as being the town you grew up in or nearby. As for the house on the farm, I still miss the farm but it's just not the same since my family isn't there any longer. I drive by the farm every now and then as it is on the way to our nearest big city if I take a different route than I normally take that is just a few miles longer. I'm glad you enjoyed your trip "home"...great post!

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  17. Yes, I've been "home" and it also is no longer a childhood paradise. I think that reflects such a major change in society itself. No longer can children run free from daybreak until dark. No longer do children include scads of other children as playmates, making accomodations in their play for the younger or weaker. In fact, no longer do children have the freedom of play itself with no real organized sports. My own children did not get to enjoy the idyllic childhood of my youth. And that's a sad fact of life.

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  18. WOW, great pic!
    So glad that you got to do that trip, and were willing to share with us. The history was fascinating, And there were Chickens!

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  19. Terri
    We moved a lot also but the Keys was my parents home plus where I had some of my best times. Like you, my grandmother stayed put allowing for a home base.

    Keith
    It really is a must see at least once. Yes it was cool seeing the busts of long gone family.

    Djan,
    We moved a bunch also and I tended to pick the happiest place to hang my memories.

    Joey,
    Then you are best to just bury it. So sorry it was not a pleasant time for you.

    Linda W.
    Thank you so much. It was a bucket list scratched off.

    Muffy,
    Thank you. My parents use to joke about who had the most outlaws in the family.

    islandwonder,
    If you get a chance, it is really cool to ride on a beach. In those days, there were whole stretches with no people. I just love those chickens.

    Aunt Betsy,
    Oh no, another where "home" was not a fond memory. I am so sorry.

    robin,
    It took a few mornings of total blah to finally get that one. It made the wait worth while.

    Manzi,
    If he visited Hemingway's house, he was only a few blocks from my grandmother's. She is briefly mentioned in the book, Hemingway, The Story. She said when he left it took two trucks to remove all the bottles. Otherwise, he was a great tenant.

    Cranky,
    I understand melancholy, I felt a bit of that also for the loss but the warm memories drove it away.

    Olga,
    You have some old Fla to explore where you are now. Enjoy.

    Carolyn,
    Yep, I could have liked to have put in some more time also but was happy with what I got.
    Hey, this is pretty darn cold isn't it? That wind is fierce.

    Betsy,
    I know you like digging up old relatives also. There aren't many left who know the stories and even less that care. Guess it is up to us.
    Gatlinburg is a very similar town that has been corrupted by tourism.

    Stephen,
    It really is like going to another country with the Bahamian architecture. Hope you get a chance.

    Cheryl,
    Thanks, I had to wait a few days to see that one.
    I know what you mean when someone else takes over your former home.

    NCMountainwoman,
    I know. The innocence we enjoyed is sadly gone. Our little gang of kids use to play kick the can till it got dark. No one worried.

    Brighid,
    Aren't those free roaming chickens cool? Loved them.

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  20. What a great story, Patti, and the photos! Is this going to start a new photography trend in your blog? I've never been to Key West, so I really enjoyed "seeing" some of the sights. Glad you got to go home again. I have no desire to return to PA where I lived to young adulthood and raised my family. (Not as picaresque as Key West.)

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  21. Nice post Patti, thank you for such nice comments.. It was special for us too! glad we could all be a part of everything!

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  22. I don't even want to talk to you....you warmth hogger! Totally jealous...

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  23. Now that was a great story!!! I'm so glad you got to go home again. This is where I grew up...no major walks down memory lane for me. I see most of the stuff daily. Things change, and fun remembering even the changes.

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  24. What a history you have to visit and look back on. Sounds like an incredible trip.

    Love the sunrise photo, how very pretty. It makes me yearn for warm weather!

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  25. this is so beautiful Patti. Key West is adorable.

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  26. What a family history you have, and what a wonderful childhood you must have had.
    I went home often until my parents sold our small farm in Oregon and moved into town. That house was not my home, but it was theirs. It was the town where I went to school. Each time we went to see them, and then my mother, we would take drives out into the surrounding countryside, and sometimes past the o;d farm. so yes, I have gone home again. It makes me feel nostalgic, but I wouldn't move back there.

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  27. Fantastic sunrise photo, Patti! I enjoyed your story of your return to Key West. It's a fascinating place which I mostly likely will never get to visit, but walking it with you through your stories may be better than the real thing! Except for the warmth, that is. It's beyond frigid down here.

    Stay warm!

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  28. I haven't left long enough to miss home, which irks me a bit. Even while away at college I don't recall missing it that much.

    Thanks for sharing this. Aside from a quick stop at the Miami airport on the way to Belize, I've never been to Florida.

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  29. Thank you so much for your post. I've never been to Florida and would love to go someday. Your blackened chicken looks really scrumptious!

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  30. Most enjoyable to read about Key West and your memories of it. I know that others have quite rightly waxed lyrical about your sunrise photo, but I must confess to admitting ooohs and ahhhs when I saw the photo of that lovely plate of blackened chicken cuddled up with the baby spinage, goats cheese, candied walnuts, cranberries and chives, and annointed with a light raspberry vinaigrette! Yum, Yum.... Well done for successfully recreating it at home... may I order a table for two??!!
    In 1997 Laura and I walked slowly by two of the places where I lived as a child in the UK, and it was amazing to see how much I had remembered, and how little things had changed. I dearly wished that we could have knocked at the front doors and introduced ourselves, but I think we were both too shy, and a bit to rough and ready looking with our packs and rain gear on. But it was nice to make that connection again with places from childhood. P, L, & NSxx

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  31. My history of growing up is not as fascinating as yours by any means. It has all been in Oklahoma and in many different towns in Oklahoma. Going back to those towns left me finding everything much smaller than I remembered:) I do have a goodly heritage though on both fraternal and paternal sides that are interesting to trace.

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  32. Oh yes, I wanted to ask also if you can gather eggs from those free roaming chickens in Florida and in Hawaii?

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  33. Barb,
    Ha, I really doubt that. I rarely recognize what I take pictures of. You are the master with the camera.

    Jan,
    Thanks sis, I owe you gals and couldn't have asked for better travel mates.

    Nan,
    Ha ha, if it makes you feel better, I am back in Arkansas now and enjoying 6 degrees along with the rest of the US.

    turquoisemoon,
    I envy those who stayed put. At least you got to see how things and people turned out.

    Eileen,
    You and me both. Cold is only fun if there is snow and no where to have to go.

    introverted art,
    I am sure you have been there before. Wish you could have seen it "when".

    Linda R.
    That means you are happy where you are. "Good on you", as my English friends would say.

    Pat,
    I know, it is down right brutal these days. Today is better at least without the wind. There are the only days I miss Florida.

    Barry,
    You haven't missed a lot outside of the warmth. Most of Florida is so commercial.
    Another who stayed close to home. Sometimes I envy that.

    Kay,
    Florida is like your state with out the slightest trace of a hill much less a mountain. You definitely have more variety.

    Peter,
    Oh I wished you had knocked. Many years ago I did get to look inside my grandmother's old home. It was hard to recognize it but the fellow that owned it was delighted to quiz me.

    Grannie Annie,
    I understand that "smaller" effect. Maybe because we were so everything looked big??
    Don't know about the eggs. Guess if you find a nest and can get past the parents it might be possible. However the chickens themselves are protected, not sure about their eggs.

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  34. What a wonderful childhood you had and very interesting family history. Happy for you that you had a nice trip and things to stir your sweet memories of childhood. Love that rooster, he is quite handsome. The sunrise picture is gorgeous!I have never been to Florida so thanks for sharing a bit of it with me. Your version of that dish looks delicious. Hugs sweet Patti and nose kisses and pats for sweet Minnie

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  35. Your wonderful memories and pictures are warm indeed!



    ALOHA from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral
    > < } } ( ° >

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  36. I found you on Manzie's blog and I am now your newest follower. I not only love Key West and visit often, but I write about Hemingway and never miss tracking his roots when I visit.

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  37. Sounds like you had a great time despite the changes. Your pictures were great. I remember going to my Vermont grandparents home years after they were gone and it all seemed so much smaller than I remembered.

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  38. I lived in So. Fla for a long time and have many great memories of Key West but nothing like yours! I am impressed that your grandmother knew Hemingway - his house was always one of my favorite stops. I spent a lot of time in Islamorada as a young woman, my youngest son called it "I love my radio". Thanks for the pics and the memories (both yours and mine!)

    conch fritters! at convenience stores! oh my....

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  39. Maggie,
    Thank you, it really was a fun time. Wasn't that rooster handsome?

    Cloudia,
    Thank you for stopping by and commenting. You see nice warm scenes like that every day in Hawaii. Lucky you.

    JJ
    Thanks so much for stopping by and following.
    Manzie said you were well versed on Hemingway. Too bad my grandmother is no longer around to share her stories.

    Ginnie,
    I noticed the "small" effect also. Guess our being little made the dimensions seem skewed.

    RMW,
    Ah, you should have seen the island before it became such a tourist mecca. We did have conch fritters when we were down there. They weren't as good as I remembered.

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